Thaddeus McCotter seeks to fill foreign policy void in GOP primary field

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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Michigan congressman and long-shot Republican presidential contender Thaddeus McCotter said that one of the voids he is seeking to fill in the crowded GOP primary field is on foreign policy.

“I don’t hear much about foreign affairs,” McCotter declared in an extensive interview with The Daily Caller, before addressing in some detail some of America’s most pressing foreign policy challenges.

McCotter supports a tougher trade policy with China. When asked whether he buys the theory that China will eventually open up politically and be less of a threat militarily through continued American economic engagement, McCotter dismissed the notion.

“I’m sure that people thought the trade with the Phoenicians would prevent wars for the Athenian city-state Sparta,” the stern-sounding congressman quipped. “And when you look at the first World War, one of the reasons why people were so shocked that it happened was because the world had become so interconnected at the start of the 20th century. Interests are interests.”

But McCotter said he is a strong believer in the power and universality of freedom.

“I think the ideas that are universal and eternal, such as our liberty, are from God, not the government, transcend all human beings,” he said. “And people seem to like it wherever they live whenever they get a chance to do it. I think someone who is currently sitting in a Chinese communist prison for signing Charter 08 and wanting to be free subscribes to that idea.”

Asked whether he would be willing to strike the Iranian nuclear program if necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, McCotter said he didn’t “buy the hypothetical.” (RELATED: McCotter on why he should be allowed to debate)

“What I buy is what we’ve been trying to do, which is much like what Reagan did with the Soviet Union, which is to support free people around [Iran],” he said. “Part of Iraq was about the liberation of those people, part of it was to put a free democracy on Iran’s doorstep. And it’s the same thing with Afghanistan.”

But, McCotter added, the United States must also proactively support pro-democracy movements in Iran like was done in Eastern Europe during the Cold War.

“We need to be supporting, as Ronald Reagan did [with] the Solidarity movement and other movements in Eastern Europe, the Green Revolution in Iran,” he said. “The way that you avoid military confrontation is the expansion of freedom by the indigenous peoples of those countries to throw off the yokes of their oppressors.”

Given his belief in the power of freedom, is McCotter optimistic about the situation in Egypt, where many experts feel the Muslim Brotherhood and other Salafist groups could wield significant power, if not outright political control, after the upcoming election?

“I’m optimistic about freedom in the long-run,” he said. But, he went on, “as I said at the time, and as me and Ambassador John Bolton were derided for, we said you’ve got to leave [former Egyptian dictator Hosni] Mubarak there long enough that you can facilitate a constructive transition, or you’re going to wind up with the Muslim Brotherhood and radicalization. And the very kids that were out there looking for freedom are going to find out that it’s been usurped the same way the Iranians usurped the popular revolution back in 1978-79.”

McCotter explained that he believes that the U.S. needs to work at the ground level to help build liberal institutions in dictatorships before democracy can flourish.

“What the United States has to do is start making it clear to people that we’re going to work with people at the grassroots level, especially in terms of building sustainable institutions of democracy and free markets, and not going to simply give it to the regime or the military or anything else that never gets down to the people,” he said.

This wasn’t what happened in Egypt in his view.

“The problem isn’t the fact that the people of Egypt wanted to get rid of Mubarak, the problem was the United States didn’t help it happen in a responsible fashion,” he argued. “And I think we’re both going to be very disappointed in the result.”

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