Rick Santorum on War & Peace
Republican Jr Senator (PA); 2012 presidential frontrunner
SANTORUM: We have to have an honest discussion with the American people about the nature of the threat that we confront. This president says that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam, and as a result has put together a strategy that doesn't take care of what the reality is, which is ISIS has established a caliphate. A caliphate is like a kingdom ruled by a caliph; a kingdom is ruled by a king. The difference is a caliphate is also a religious call. And you say, "well, how do we stop them from following them?" Well, to be a legitimate caliphate, you have to control land and operate a state under sharia law. If you don't do that, you cannot call for that support. And so the answer is we must take their land and make them illegitimate in the eyes of the Muslim world.
Gov. Mike HUCKABEE: I think Rick Santorum is exactly right. You take away their land.
SANTORUM: Well, I wouldn't right now, but we need someone who has a strong vision for the region and we have not had that with this president. He has been making mistakes at every turn in Iran, in Egypt, I would argue, Libya, Syria, Israel. All of these places, he has made mistakes on the ground that have shown the people in that region that we are the weak horse. That is something that cannot happen because it will cause events like you're seeing in the Straits of Hormuz. There will be push. America is soft and so they can be pushed around. That's what this administration has done. They did it by withdrawing from Iraq, and [the same] if we get out of Afghanistan. Let's just wait and see how things turn out when the United States isn't there and see how consequential our efforts were for the stability of that region.
HUNTSMAN: So how long do you want to wait?
SANTORUM: Until the security of our country is ensured.
Santorum: Victory against the Taliban in Afghanistan is that the Taliban is a neutered force. They are no longer a security threat to the Afghan people or to our country. That would be victory. It doesn't mean wipe them out, we can't wipe them out, but they're no longer a security threat.
SANTORUM: Just because our economy is sick does not mean our country is sick, and it doesn't mean our values are sick. And we're going to stand up for those values every opportunity to make sure that our country is safe. The bottom line is, we should be fighting wars to win, not fighting wars for politics. And this president is fighting a war in Afghanistan with one hand tied behind our generals, not giving the troops they need, not giving the authority, the rules of engagement to allow us to be successful. And unless we change those rules of engagement and make sure that our folks can win, then we are going to play politics with our military.
BACHMANN: I believe that it was wrong for the president to go into Libya. There was no American vital interest in Libya. We didn't know who the rebel forces were in Libya.
SANTORUM: I'm hearing from at least a couple of people on this panel a very isolationist view. Ronald Reagan was committed to America being a force for good around the world. We could have been a force for good from the very get-go in Libya, but this president was indecisive and confused from the very beginning. He only went along with the Libyan mission because the UN told him to. This is a very important issue for our party. Are we going to stand in the Reagan tradition, or are we going to go the isolationist view that some in this party are advocating?
PAWLENTY: We were justified in the invasion. It was 10 years ago. People killed Americans. We needed to go there, find them, bring them to justice or kill them. But in terms of where we are now, 10 years removed, I was last there last summer and met with Gen. Petraeus. He thought would it take two years from last summer to have an orderly and successful wind down of our mission in Afghanistan, at leas in terms of significant troop withdrawal. Pres. Obama has accelerated that faster than the generals recommended. I would have accepted their recommendations and drawn them down a little slower.
Q: [to Santorum]: So it is still worth it?
SANTORUM: It is still worth it. But we are going to have to have a successful draw down, not one according to Barack Obama's campaign calendar next year.
SANTORUM: Yes, they have.
SANTORUM: Because the Bush administration hasn’t laid out the complexity of dealing with this war and, and how it fits into a broader picture.
Q: When President Clinton took troops into Kosovo, you said, “President Clinton is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He is yet to tell Congress how much this operation will cost. And, he has not informed our nation’s Armed Forces about how long they will be away from home.“ Do you believe you should have the same standard for President Bush? He should give a defined objective, he should give an exit strategy, he should give a cost, and he should give a timeline for Iraq, just as you were demanding President Clinton give for Kosovo?
SANTORUM: No. Because Kosovo and Slobodan Milosevic were never a security threat to the US. It wasn’t even close.
Santorum: We need to focus our military on OUR national security not UN or humanitarian efforts, the first being to defend our borders.
Bachmann: No. There is no vital US interest in Libya. Worse, we might be aiding terrorist groups by supporting the Libyan opposition.
Santorum: I would not go anywhere unless our national security was at stake. It seems clear that was not the case.
SANTORUM: ISIS is a caliphate, the first Sunni caliphate since 1924, when Ataturk disbanded the Ottoman Empire. Under Islamic law, good Muslims who see them as a legitimate caliphate are required to follow them. How do we defeat their caliphate? Well, it's very clear in Islamic law how you do so. You take their land. You have to take land back from the caliphate and in the Islamic world that delegitimizes the caliphate. It makes the caliphate unsuccessful. Therefore not blessed by Allah. Therefore, you should not follow it. We need to take back the land in Iraq and we need to use Sunni, not Shiites, not Iranian troops, not Shiite Iraqis, but Sunni Muslims in Iraq and the Kurds, the Peshmerga, and take back Iraqi land. I believe if we did that, you would see ISIS begin to collapse.
GRAHAM: You're not going to win that way, Rick. There's nobody left in Syria to train.
SANTORUM: Well, look, the larger point to this book, in my opinion, was the fact that the president puts domestic politics before international concerns. Everything is seen through the lens of domestic politics.
Q: Gates does give Obama credit for bucking not just the politics, but the political advice that he was given.
SANTORUM: Well, I would just say that the president, when he ran first time, said that, "The war we need to win is Afghanistan," right?
Q: Right, that was thought of as "the good war."
SANTORUM: Right. And the problems I have with this administration are less Afghanistan than they are what we did in Iraq when we pulled out of Iraq. Because it was politically popular to pull out of Iraq.
Santorum said he has no "doubt" chemical weapons were used, but he is not sure which side used them, differing from the administration and most voices weighing in on the issue. "It wouldn't be a surprise to me that both sides were using them or that the radical Islamists are using them," Santorum said. "While I agree it is very clear that chemical weapons were used--the idea that we need to be punishing Assad and doing things to tip the balance in favor of al Qaeda who are running the rebel forces to me is a very questionable tactic of itself.
PAUL: I don't want Iran to get a nuclear weapon. But sanctions themselves always leads up to war.
SANTORUM: Well, Ron, we have a very great relationship with the Iranian people. The Iranian people have taken to the streets repeatedly and still do, in trying to overthrow their government. And we had a president of the United States who stood silently by as thousands were killed on the streets, and did nothing. In fact, he tacitly supported the results of the election. When I was in the Senate, I pushed to help those revolutionaries before the revolution, to give them resources. The Iranian people love America because we stand up for the truth and call evil, which is what Ahmadinejad and the mullahs are, we call evil what it is. That's why they admire us, because we tell the truth. Now we just have to have a president that helps them to do what is necessary, which is to turn that regime out.
Santorum: I disagree with Newt: more sanctions and providing more support for the pro-democracy movement isn't going to be enough. We should be working with Israel right now to do what they did in Syria, what they did in Iraq, which is take out that nuclear capability before the next explosion we hear in Iran is a nuclear one and then the world changes.
SANTORUM: I'm not for taking them out of the region. I believe we need to listen to our generals, and our generals are being very, very clear that we need to continue to stabilize Iraq, the Iraqi government wants and needs our intelligence in particular, needs force protection. We need to have--I'm hearing numbers of 20,000 to 30,000 troops potentially to remain in Iraq, not indefinitely, but to continue to make sure that this is a stable transition. When it comes to this issue, I stand up and say that when we engage in Iraq and Afghanistan, we engage because we want to be successful. We want victory. We want to have accomplished a national security objective for this country to make sure that we are safer. We are not on a political agenda to withdraw troops. So the first thing is to make sure that we secure success.
SANTORUM: On your Web site on 9/11, you had a blog post that basically blamed the United States for 9/11. On your Web site, yesterday, you said that it was our actions that brought about the actions of 9/11. Now, that is irresponsible. Someone who is running for the president of the United States in the Republican Party should not be parroting what Osama bin Laden said on 9/11. We are not being attacked and we were not attacked because of our actions. We were attacked because we have a civilization that is antithetical to the civilization of the jihadists. And they want to kill us because of who we are and what we stand for. And we stand for American exceptionalism, we stand for freedom and opportunity for everybody around the world, and I am not ashamed to do that.
PAUL: No, that makes it much worse. This whole idea of sanctions, all these pretend free traders, they're the ones who put on these trade sanctions.
SANTORUM: Well, as the author of the Iran Freedom Support Act, which he is criticizing, it actually imposed sanctions on Iran because of their nuclear program--Iran is not Iceland, Ron. Iran is a country that has been at war with us since 1979. Iran is a country that has killed more American men and women in uniform than the Iraqis and the Afghanis have. The Iranians are the existential threat to the state of Israel, via funding of Hamas and Hezbollah and the support of Syria.
PAUL: The senator is wrong on his history. We've been at war in Iran for a lot longer than 1979. We started it in 1953 when we sent in a coup, installed the shah, and the blowback came in 1979. It's been going on and on because we just plain don't mind our own business. That's our problem.
PAUL: You've heard the war propaganda that is liable to lead us into a sixth war. And I worry about that position. Iran does not have an air force that can come here. And here we are building this case up, just like we did in Iraq--build up the war propaganda. There was no al Qaeda in Iraq. And [Bush claimed Iraq] had nuclear weapons and we had to go in. I'm sure you supported that war, as well. It's time we quit this
SANTORUM: I think Secretary Rumsfeld has done a fine job as the defense secretary, and the problems that we are confronting are problems of an enemy that’s much more potent than I think anybody ever anticipated. You know, we have a great game plan. We need to go out there and continue to fight this war on Islamic fascism.
SANTORUM: That makes it more complex. The radical Sunni terrorist groups, as well as Shia nation-states like Iran, want to defeat the United States.
Q: But stay on Iraq, Senator.
SANTORUM: I’m coming back to it. But you can’t ignore the fact that Iraq is simply a front. And Iran, the principal stoker of this Shia/Sunni sectarian violence, would love nothing more to see than the Iraqi democracy fail. Iran is the one that’s causing most of the problems in Iraq, and, obviously, with Israel today. Iran is the country that we need to focus on in this war against Islamic fascism.
Q: So Iran now has more influence in Iraq than they did before Saddam Hussein?
SANTORUM: I would say that they have more influence in a free country than they would within a totalitarian regime.
SANTORUM: We have found weapons of mass destruction, they were older weapons, but we have found chemical weapons.
Q:The president has accepted the report of his two task forces which said, “Iraq did not have the weapons our intelligence believed were there.”
SANTORUM: There were all sorts of weapons that our intelligence believed were there. So far we have not found any new weapons. But we have found over 500 old chemical weapons.
Q: Was Saddam a serious and grave danger to America?
SANTORUM: I believe that Iraq was a serious and grave danger to America.
Q: Based on what?
SANTORUM: Based on the fact that they were working with other terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, and that they had camps that they were training Baathists and terrorists.
SANTORUM: As far as we know, that’s the case. But that doesn’t mean that they didn’t have a working relationship with a variety of different terrorist organizations. In fact, the Saddam Hussein government was giving terrorists bounties for killing Israelis.
Q: But knowing what you know now about the weapons of mass destruction, the primary rationale for the war, would you believe that the Iraq war was a choice or a necessity?
SANTORUM: I believe that it was a war of necessity because they were a threat. It is important that we are in the Middle East right now and confronting this broad war against Islamic fascism. The bottom line is that we are now almost 5 years from Sept. 11th. We have not had any kind of terrorist attack in this country, because we’ve taken it to them. We’ve disrupted their networks, not just in Afghanistan. Iraq was a state sponsor of terror, and we went after them.
SANTORUM: The plans that my opponent has laid out in some of his speeches and I’ve laid out in mine are basically the same thing the administration is trying to do. You’re trying to get the Iraqis to take control of the security situation. We are trying to get international cooperation to get money in there. We’re trying to improve their quality of life. We’re trying to stabilize their democracy and make sure their constitution is defended.
Q: Would you put more troops in Iraq?
SANTORUM: I don’t know if it’s a question of more troops or less troops. I think the focus should not be Iraq, but should be Iran.
I firmly believe that this resolution we are debating will strengthen the hand of President Bush and the international community in forcing Saddam Hussein to disarm and to ensure his compliance with all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.
SANTORUM: No, we have an opportunity to go after them by using pro-democracy forces outside and within Iran, and to crack down with additional sanctions. That’s the one-two punch [outlined in my proposed bill]. The administration so far has opposed me on that.
Q: No military option?
SANTORUM: That’s part of the 2% that President Bush doesn’t agree with me on.
CASEY: There’s no question that the policy of our government has to be to do everything possible to make sure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon. And we’ve got to use sanctions in a very skilled way. We agree that sanctions have got to be very tough.
SANTORUM: You would have voted for my bill?
CASEY: Absolutely. I have to ask about the most prominent critic of Iran’s sanctions, Dick Cheney. Are you going to denounce him for continually opposing sanctions?
SANTORUM: I disagree with him on sanctions, but I don’t denounce people because I disagree with them.
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