Though presidential candidate Herman Cain has been somewhat vague on the campaign trail about several important foreign policy challenges confronting America, over a dozen of his syndicated columns lend insight into his general foreign policy predisposition.
Since Cain’s precipitous rise to the top of the Republican presidential field, many foreign policy analysts and political observers have questioned whether he can continue to remain vague and refuse to give concrete positions on the most significant foreign policy challenges that face America. To mitigate this concern, Cain has staffed up with foreign policy professionals and his campaign recently told TheDC he plans on giving a major foreign policy-centered speech.
But the columns Cain wrote as a syndicated columnist with the North Star Writers Group (which later became North Star National) starting in February 2006 shed light on his foreign policy instincts. Of the 250 columns Cain wrote from the beginning of 2006 until he launched his presidential exploratory committee in January 2011, fewer than 10 percent focused on or included a significant commentary on foreign policy, according to an analysis by The Daily Caller.
These foreign policy columns tend to show the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO to be hawkish on a war on terror he believes “will be fought forever,” disdainful of Democrats and liberals who he argues are fighting a war against America with “words” and are acting as a “propaganda machine” for America’s enemies, and confident that America can overcome its perceived decline with “American-style strength.”
In a May 2006 column entitled “The Truth is Alien to the Left,” Cain argued that though polls showed that the American public had soured on the Iraq War, it was due to a “general lack of knowledge in the public about the success produced by our troops’ presence in Iraq.”
“[T]here have been no successful terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001,” Cain wrote, while listing the positive outcomes of the war in Iraq at the height of its unpopularity.
A month later, in a column entitled “Know Our Enemy,” Cain declared, in the aftermath of the killing of al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the arrest of “would-be terrorists in Canada,” that Americans should understand that the “War on terrorism is global and will be fought forever.”
“Our enemy is not the peaceful Muslims of the world, many of whom remain noticeably silent out of fear of reprisals of terrorists,” he cautioned in the column. “Our enemy is that group of Muslim terrorists whose sole objective is to kill all of us and end western civilization.”
At the end of July 2006, Cain would declare the war on terrorism to be “World War III.”
“The global conflict against Islamic terrorists does indeed confer upon it World War status,” he wrote, adding that “it is fundamentally different than any war we have fought.”
A week later in a column entitled “The Propaganda War,” Cain wrote that “liberals are fighting the war against our great nation with words instead of bullets.”
“Left unchallenged, their words can be just as lethal,” he noted.
In particular, Cain pointed to “liberal media outlets, liberals in the U.S. Congress and the United Nations” as the prime offenders and “the Israeli military, the U.S. military and the Bush administration” as their prime targets.
Cain essentially suggested that liberals had — intentionally or unintentionally — allied themselves with America’s enemies.
“The liberals’ propaganda machine has become the press operation of the Islamic terrorists who plot to destroy America, her military and western civilization,” he wrote.
In October 2006, Cain wrote that “there are, in fact, easy answers to fighting terrorists” that Democratic “appeasers” just don’t understand.
“You start by killing all the terrorists,” Cain proffered. “You don’t arrest them, prosecute them and pay for their lifetime imprisonment in American jails. You kill them. That’s the only language the terrorists understand.”
A week later in a column published a day before a wave election would sweep Democrats into power in Congress, Cain wrote, “Ceding the reigns of the congressional majority to the Democrats will send a message of weakness to our enemies and impose a swift death sentence on American civilians.”
Responding to a comment by a Democratic National Committee spokesman saying that Democrats would push for a “phased redeployment in Iraq,” Cain indicated he supported aggressively continuing the war effort in Iraq until victory was achieved.
“Running away from our enemy is certainly an unconventional strategy for fighting the global war against Islamic terrorists,” he wrote, “but is probably not conducive to winning.”
Several months later President George W. Bush would reject the advice of his Joint Chiefs of Staff and implement his surge strategy in Iraq that has been responsible for significantly pacifying the Middle Eastern country and making an American victory there possible.
As Thanksgiving approached in 2006, Cain wrote a column entitled “Where in the World is the Thanks?”
In the column Cain expressed consternation over the fact that a German civil rights groups had filed suit against American officials for war crimes.
“How does Germany respond to decades of U.S. generosity?” he asked. “By deteriorating into a socialist democracy overrun by Islamic fascists, and filing frivolous charges against the very nation that restored its freedoms.”
In May 2007, Cain praised President Bush for pushing for victory in Iraq despite a weary American public.
“Most of us do care, however, that the president did not blink,” he said. “Just because the public has grown weary of the daily dose of reports about the ugly realities of war, war weariness is not an excuse to cut and run, announce a date for certain withdrawal from Iraq or think we can bury our collective in the sand and the terrorists will leave us alone.”
After foreign-born doctors participated in a terrorist plot in the England and Scotland in July 2007, Cain warned about the potential for the same to happen in the United States.
“Twenty-five percent of the doctors in the U.S. are foreign born,” he said. “We should certainly not become doctor-phobic, but it does suggest that we are vulnerable to similar terrorist connections.”
In a December 2007 column, Cain seemed to stand by the progress that the surge in Iraq was beginning to show while chastising Democrats for political posturing.
“Some of us see progress in Iraq … as a glass half-full,” he proffered. Democrats, wrote Cain, “seem content on shattering America’s greatness into little pieces” simply “for the sake of pure political power.”
The next foreign policy column Cain would write wouldn’t be for almost two years. When he again touched on foreign policy in December 2009, he discussed how America was not yet a lost power.
“[O]ur military is still the strongest and best in the world,” he wrote. “Using our military power where and when appropriate is not arrogance. It’s common sense. Pip squeak potentates in smaller and weaker countries would like to reduce us to their level by promising to sit down and sing kumbaya.”
“I believe in diplomacy as much as anyone else,” he added. “But when diplomacy fails, we are face with a ‘kill or be killed’ or ‘take or be taken’ world.”
After returning from vacation in July 2010, Cain wrote a column in which only one paragraph was devoted to foreign policy, but the message seemed to strike a different tone from Cain’s usually hawkish words.
“The war in Afghanistan has a new general in charge, but the outlook for ‘victory’ is still bleak,” he wrote. “It will be difficult even for General Petraeus because it is widely recognized that the Afghanistan government is corrupt, and the ‘rules of engagement’ to protect civilians increases the dangers to our troops.”
While Cain was gung-ho on continuing the war effort in Iraq until victory was achieved, the July 2010 column left a hint that he was coming to the conclusion that victory in Afghanistan might not be achievable despite the military’s best efforts. Indeed, Afghanistan is one significant foreign policy challenge Cain has not provided a clear stance on during his campaign for the White House, saying he doesn’t have the intelligence the president has and that he would consult such information and experts if elected president before determining where he stands.
Cain’s final significant comment on foreign policy before he launched his presidential exploratory committee in January 2011 came in a October 24, 2010 column after he returned from a trip to China.
“China’s rapid economic growth is no big surprise,” Cain wrote. “But when you see and hear it firsthand, coupled with its central government control, there is a chilling and depressing realization. America’s economic and military strength could become second in the world.”
“But,” Cain added, “it can be stopped if we counter with American-style strength — a reinvigorated economy combined with real freedom. No countervailing force can stand up to that.”
Cain would go on to write several other foreign policy columns after he announced his presidential exploratory committee, but his columns before the announcement are more likely to be better unfiltered examples of his foreign policy instincts.
Full disclosure: Jamie Weinstein wrote a column for North Star Writers Group/North Star National from March 2008 until June 2010.