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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
PART II: 20:30-21:00, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY DEBATE
Aired November 22, 2011 - 20:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R-MINN., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Pakistan has been the epicenter of dealing with terrorism. They are, as Governor Huntsman said, there are al-Qaeda training grounds there. There's also the Haqqani network that can be trained there as well.
And they also are one of the most violent, unstable nations that there is. We have to recognize that 15 of the sites, nuclear sites are available or are potentially penetrable by jihadists. Six attempts have already been made on nuclear sites. This is more than an existential threat. We have to take this very seriously.
The United States has to be engaged. It is complicated. We have to recognize that the Chinese are doing everything that they can to be an influential party in Pakistan. We don't want to lose influence.
I'm answering your question. You asked me about the money that the United States gives to Pakistan. This is a -- this is a dual answer. A nation that lies, that does everything possibly that you could imagine wrong, at the same time they do share intelligence data with us regarding Al Qaida.
We need to demand more. The money that we are sending right now is primarily intelligence money to Pakistan. It is helping the United States. Whatever our action is, it must ultimately be about helping the United States and our sovereignty...
WOLF BLITZER, DEBATE MODERATOR AND CNN LEAD POLITICAL ANCHOR: So...
BACHMANN: ... our safety and our security.
BLITZER: ... you would continue that aid to Pakistan?
BACHMANN: I -- at this point I would continue that aid, but I do think that the Obama policy of keeping your fingers crossed is not working in Pakistan,. And I also think that Pakistan is a nation, that it's kind of like too nuclear to fail. And so we've got to make sure that we take that threat very seriously.
BLITZER: Governor Perry?
GOV. RICK PERRY, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I understand where she's coming from, but the bottom line is that they've showed us time after time that they can't be trusted. And until Pakistan clearly shows that they have America's best interests in mind, I would not send them one penny, period.
I think it is important for us to send the message to those across the world that, if you are not going to be an ally of the United States, do not expect a dime of our citizens' money to be coming into your country. That is the way we change foreign policy.
Now, if we want to engage these countries with our abilities and our companies that go in, and help to economically build these countries up, rather than just writing a blank check to them, then we can have that conversation, because I think that is a change in foreign policy that would be adequate and appropriate and a positive move for us.
But to write a check to countries that are clearly not representing American interests is nonsensical.
BLITZER: You want to respond, Congresswoman Bachmann?
BACHMANN: Well, I -- with all due respect to the governor, I think that's highly naive, because, again, we have to recognize what's happening on the ground. These are nuclear weapons all across this nation. And, potentially, Al Qaida could get hold of these weapons.
These weapons could find their way out of -- out of Pakistan, into New York City or into Washington, D.C., and a nuclear weapon could be set off in this city. That's how serious this is. We have to maintain an American presence.
They certainly aren't looking out for the best interests of the United States. I wouldn't expect them to. But at the same time, we have to have our interests, which is national security, represented. The best way we can do that with an uneven actor state is to have some sort of presence there.
BLITZER: I just want to give Governor Perry the chance to respond.
She just said your views are highly naive.
PERRY: And I -- absolutely we need to be engaged in that part of the world. I never said for us not to be engaged. I just said we need to quit writing blank checks to these countries, and then letting them decide how these dollars are going to be spent.
We've got Afghanistan and India working in concert right now to leverage Pakistan. I think if we would create a trade zone in that part of the world, where you have all of those countries working together, that may be the answer to getting Pakistan to understand that they have to work with all of the countries in that region.
BLITZER: All right, I want to move on.
BLITZER: I want to move on, but you'll have a chance -- you'll have a chance to respond... BACHMANN: If I can just -- Wolf, if I could just...
BLITZER: Very quickly.
BACHMANN: ... clarify, we're not writing just blank checks. We're also exchanging intelligence information. So we aren't writing blank checks in that region.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take another question from the audience.
Please give us your name and your organization.
QUESTION: Israel Ortega (ph) with the Heritage Foundation.
Is the money that we've drawn back from U.S. troops in Afghanistan really worth the risk of allowing Taliban to expand territories, and Al Qaida to grow safe sanctuaries?
BLITZER: Governor Romney, $2 billion a week the United States is spending right now in Afghanistan, $2 billion, more than $100 billion a year. And U.S. troops are supposed to stay for another three years at least, till the end of 2014. Is that money well spent?
FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We spent about $450 billion so far, 1,700 or so service men and women have lost their lives there, and many tens of thousands have been wounded. Our effort there is to keep Afghanistan from becoming a launching point for terror against the United States. We can't just write off a major part of the world.
Pakistan is the sixth largest country in the world. We can't just say goodbye to all of -- of what's going on in that part of the world.
Instead, we want to draw them toward modernity. And for that to happen, we don't want to literally pull up stakes and run out of town after the extraordinary investment that we've made. And that means we should have a gradual transition of handing off to the Afghan security forces the responsibility for their own country.
And for the region, what happened in Indonesia back in the 1960s, where -- where we helped Indonesia move toward modernity with new leadership. We -- we brought them in the technology that allowed them to trade in the world.
We need to bring Pakistan into the 21st century -- or the 20th century, for that matter, so that they -- they can engage throughout the world with trade and with modernity.
Right now, American approval level in -- in Pakistan is 12 percent. We're not doing a very good job with this huge investment we make of $4.5 billion a year. We can do a lot better directing that to encourage people to take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities the West and freedom represent for their people.
BLITZER: Now, Governor Huntsman, do you agree with Governor Romney that the U.S. has to stay in Afghanistan at these levels?
FORMER GOV. JON HUNTSMAN JR, R-UTAH, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I -- I totally disagree. I think we need to square with the American people about what we've achieved. We need an honest conversation in this country about the sacrifices that have been made over nearly 10 years.
We have -- we have dismantled the Taliban. We've run them out of Kabul. We've had free elections in 2004. We've killed Osama bin Laden. We've upended, dismantled al Qaeda. We have achieved some very important goals for the United States of America.
Now, the fact that we have 100,000 troops nation-building in Afghanistan when this nation so desperately needs to be built, when, on the ground, we do need intelligence gathering, no doubt about that. We need a strong Special Forces presence. We need a drone presence. And we need some ongoing training of the Afghan National Army.
But we haven't done a very good job defining and articulating what the end point is in Afghanistan. And I think the American people are getting very tired about where we find ourselves today.
BLITZER: Let me let Governor Romney respond.
ROMNEY: Well, let me respond.
Are you suggesting, Governor, that we just take all our troops out next week or what -- what's your proposal?
HUNTSMAN: Did you hear what I just said?
I said we should draw down from 100,000. We don't need 100,000 troops. We don't need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan...
HUNTSMAN: -- many of whom can't even cross the wire. We need a presence on the ground that is more akin to 10,000 or 15,000. That will serve our interests in terms of intelligence gathering and Special Forces response capability. And we need to prepare for a world, not just in South Asia, but, indeed, in every corner of the world in which counter-terror -- counter-terrorism is going to be in front of us for as far as the eye can see into the 21st century.
ROMNEY: And the -- and the commanders on the ground feel that we should bring down our surge troops by December of 2012 and bring down all of our troops, other than, perhaps, 10,000 or so, by the end of -- of 2014.
The decision to pull our troops out before that, they believe, would put at risk the extraordinary investment of treasure and blood which has been sacrificed by the American military.
I stand with the commanders in this regard and have no information that suggests that pulling our troops out faster than that would do anything but put at -- at great peril the extraordinary sacrifice that's been made. This is not time for America to cut and run. We have been in for 10 years. We are winding down. The Afghan troops are picking up the capacity to secure their country. And the mission is pretty straightforward, and that is to allow the Afghan people to have a sovereign nation not taken over by the Taliban.
BLITZER: Let me bring the speaker in. What do you say...
FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, R-GA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would...
BLITZER: -- pull out?
HUNTSMAN: Just -- just one point.
BLITZER: You want -- oh, go ahead.
HUNTSMAN: Yes, just about the generals on the ground. And listen, I think it's important for the American people to know we have achieved some very important objectives in raising standards in Afghanistan and helping to build civil society.
But at the end of the day, the president of the United States is commander-in-chief, commander-in-chief. Of course you're going to listen to the generals. But...
HUNTSMAN: -- I also remember when people listened to the generals in 1967 and we heard a certain course of action in South Asia that didn't serve our interests very well.
The president is the commander-in-chief and ought to be informed by a lot of different voices, including of those of his generals Jr. ) on the ground.
BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich?
ROMNEY: Look, I've got a good -- he gets a response, I get a response.
BLITZER: All right.
ROMNEY: Of course the commander-in-chief makes -- make the final decision.
REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How about the rest of us?
ROMNEY: Of course the final -- look...
PAUL: How about us who haven't had a response?
BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) got a chance.
ROMNEY: Of course the commander-in-chiefs makes the -- makes the final decision. But the commander-in-chief makes that decision based upon the input of people closest to the ground. And -- and we -- we've both been to Afghanistan. I've been to Afghanistan. The people I speak with there say we have a very good prospect of the people in Afghanistan being able to secure the peace and their sovereignty from the Taliban, but that if we pull out on a precipitous basis, as Governor Huntsman suggests, that we could well see that nation and Pakistan get pulled into terror and become another launching point to go after America. That's a mistake. That's why you listen and then make your decision.
GINGRICH: Well, Wolf, I'm a little confused about exactly what we're currently debating, because I think -- I think we tend to get down to these narrow questions that -- that, in a sense, don't get at the -- at the core issues.
The very first question I thought about Pakistan is the one that should be the starting point.
The gentleman said that when we went in and killed bin Laden, that we drove U.S.-Pakistan -- did I have -- is this like a 30-second response?
BLITZER: Go ahead.
GINGRICH: I mean, I'm happy to play by the rules, I just want to know what they are. But I think this is the heart of the American dilemma. We were told, a perfectly natural Washington assumption that our killing bin Laden in Pakistan drove U.S.-Pakistan relations to a new low.
To which my answer is, well, it should have because we should be furious.
GINGRICH: Now, and that's where this has got to start. You want to keep American troops in Afghanistan, you accept hot pursuit, you say no sanctuaries, you change the rules of engagement, you put the military in charge of the military side, you overhaul the State Department and AID so they get the job done, and you do it for real and you do it intensely, and you tell the Pakistanis, help us or get out of the way, but don't complain if we kill people you're not willing to go after on your territory where you have been protecting them.
BLITZER: Senator Santorum?
FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I agree with Ron Paul. We are not fighting a war on terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic. We're fighting a war against radical Islam. And what radical Islam is telling -- all of the radical Islamist leaders are saying is that just wait America out, America is weak, they will not stand for the fight, they cannot maintain this, they'll set time limits, politics will interfere, and we will tell the people in Afghanistan, we will tell the people in Iraq and other places that we will be the strong horse in the region.
And President Obama, by making political decision after political decision about timelines and constraints on rules of engagement, has validated everything these radical Islamists are saying.
So the answer to you, Jon, is that you're doing exactly -- Governor Huntsman, is that you're doing exactly what all of the radical leaders are saying that America will do, that we are not in this to win, we are going to play politics with this, and then we will find this problem in Afghanistan on our shores in a very short order.
BLITZER: We are going to come to Congressman Cain (sic) in a moment. But just hold your horses for a second because we're going to take a quick break. Much more coming up. The former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff calls this the number one threat to America's national security. The candidates will answer that question on this topic, coming up next.
We want you to send us your questions for the candidates. Go to cnnpolitics.com or facebook.com/cnnpolitics or on twitter use #cnndebate. Our coverage of this historic debate at Constitution Hall in Washington continues in a moment.
BLITZER: Welcome back to historic Constitution Hall here in the nation's capital.
We're continuing the CNN national security debate. Let's go right to the audience. We have a question from the audience.
Go ahead with your question.
No question from the audience.
Yes, we do. We do have a question from the audience.
We were waiting for you. (LAUGHTER)
QUESTION: I'm Mike Gonzalez (ph) of the Heritage Foundation.
BLITZER: Thank you.
QUESTION: If Israel attacked Iran to prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons, would you help Israel launch the attack or support it otherwise?
BLITZER: All right. We've got the question. Let me ask Herman Cain first. Did you get the question?
HERMAN CAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't quite get the question.
BLITZER: If -- the specific question is, if Israel attacked Iran to prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons, would you help Israel launch the attack or support it otherwise?
CAIN: I would first make sure that they had a credible plan for success, clarity of mission and clarity of success.
Remember, when you talk about attacking Iran, it is a very mountainous region. The latest reports say that there may be 40 different locations, and I would want to make sure that we had a good idea from intelligence sources where these are located.
And if Israel had a credible plan that it appeared as if they could succeed, I would support Israel, yes. And in some instances, depending upon how strong the plan is, we would join with Israel for that, if it was clear what the mission was and it was clear what the definition of victory was.
BLITZER: Congressman Paul, would you support Israel and help Israel in such an attack?
PAUL: No, I wouldn't do that.
But there would be good reasons because I don't expect it to happen. Because, you know, the Mossad leader that just retired said it would be the stupidest thing to do in the world. And it's a big argument over in Israel. They're not about to do this.
They've just polled 40 major experts on foreign policy here by the National Journal. Not one of them said there should be a unilateral attack on -- on the sites in -- in Iran.
So that's not going to happen. And if it did -- you're supposing that if it did, why does Israel need our help? We need to get out of their way. I mean, we interfere with them. We interfere with them...
... when they deal with their borders. When they want to have peace treaties, we tell them what they can do because we buy their allegiance and they sacrifice their sovereignty to us. And then they decide they want to bomb something, that's their business, but they should, you know, suffer the consequences. When they bombed the Iraqi missile site, nuclear site, back in the '80s, I was one of the few in Congress that said it's none of our business and Israel should take care of themselves. Israel has 200, 300 nuclear missiles. And they can take care of themselves.
Why should we commit -- we don't even have a treaty with Israel. Why do we have this automatic commitment that we're going to send our kids and send our money endlessly to Israel? So I think they're quite capable of taking care of themselves.
I think we do detriment -- just think of all the money we gave to Egypt over 30 or 40 years. Now, look, we were buying friendship. Now there's a civil war, they're less friendly to Israel.
The whole thing is going to backfire once we go bankrupt and we remove our troops, so I think we should be very cautious in our willingness to go to war and send troops without a proper declaration by the U.S. Congress.
BLITZER: Let me let Herman Cain respond.
CAIN: Thank you.
I stated if the mission and the plan were clear, that it could succeed, but I pointed out that that is highly unlikely, given the terrain, the mountainous terrain in Iran.
But here's the other reason that we should help Israel in an initiative live that. Back to Afghanistan: if we pull out of Afghanistan too soon, Iran is going to help to fulfill that power vacuum in Afghanistan. And so it is in our best interests, the United States of America, to prevent them from being able to help fill that power vacuum in Afghanistan.
BLITZER: Let's stay on this subject. And I want all of you to weigh in. We have another question.
Please give us your name and your organization.
QUESTION: Good evening. I'm Danielle Pletka (ph); I'm the Vice President for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Yesterday the United States and the U.K. slapped new sanctions on Iran. But we haven't bought oil directly from Iran in over 30 years. We've had targeted sanctions on Iran for more than half that time.
Nonetheless, Iran is probably less than a year away from getting a nuclear weapon. Do you believe that there is any set of sanctions that could be put in place that would stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?
BLITZER: Let's go to Governor Perry. What do you think?
PERRY: Absolutely. We need to sanction the Iranian Central Bank. That would be one of the most powerful ways to impact that. As a matter of fact, Congressman Paul, that is what we need to do before we ever start having any conversations about a military strike, is to use every sanction that we have.
And when you sanction the Iranian Central Bank, that will shut down that economy. At that particular point in time, they truly have to deal with the United States. And it's one of the reasons that I call for the -- there is an area over there, of all of them working together -- and I'm talking about Syria -- and bringing them into the mix as well.
As I called for, one of the options is to have a no-fly zone over Syria at the same time you're putting those types of sanctions against Iran. And in that moment, they will understand that America is serious. This President refuses to do that, and it's another show of lack of leadership from the President of the United States.
BLITZER: The argument, Speaker Gingrich -- and I know you've studied this, and I want you to weigh in -- on the sanctioning of the Iranian Central Bank, because if you do that, for all practical purposes, it cuts off Iranian oil exports, 4 million barrels a day.
The Europeans get a lot of that oil. They think their economy, if the price of gasoline skyrocketed, which it would, would be disastrous. That's why the pressure is on the U.S. to not impose those sanctions. What say you?
GINGRICH: Well, I say you -- the question you just asked is perfect, because the fact is we ought to have a massive all-sources energy program in the United States designed to, once again, create a surplus of energy here, so we could say to the Europeans pretty cheerfully, that all the various sources of oil we have in the United States, we could literally replace the Iranian oil.
Now that's how we won World War II.
GINGRICH: So, I think you put your finger, Wolf, on the -- on the -- you know, we all get sucked into these tactical discussions. We need a strategy of defeating and replacing the current Iranian regime with minimum use of force. We need a strategy, as Rick Santorum was saying, of being honest about radical Islam and designing a strategy to defeat it wherever it happens to exist.
We need a strategy in central Asia that recognizes that, frankly, if you're Pashtun, you don't care whether you're in Pakistan or Afghanistan, because you have the same tribal relationships. So we need to be much more strategic and less tactical in our discussion.
But if we were serious, we could break the Iranian regime, I think, within a year, starting candidly with cutting off the gasoline supply to Iran, and then, frankly, sabotaging the only refinery they have.
BLITZER: But sanctions on the Iranian Central Bank now, is that a good idea or a bad idea?
GINGRICH: I think it's a good idea if you're serious about stopping them having nuclear -- I mean, I think replacing the regime before they get a nuclear weapon without a war beats replacing the regime with war, which beats allowing them to have a nuclear weapon. Those are your three choices.
BLITZER: I want Congresswoman Bachmann to weigh in. Go ahead.
BACHMANN: I agree with all of that. And energy independence is something that President Obama certainly has avoided.
BLITZER: But that's going to take many years.
BACHMANN: It -- it will but the president -- almost every decision that the president has made since he came in has been one to put the United States in a position of unilateral disarmament including the most recent decision he made to cancel the Keystone Pipeline.
That would have not only created jobs but it would have helped us in energy independence.
But I want to go back to something. That's the fact why is it that we're talking about Israel having to make a strike against Iran? It's because Iran has announced they plan to strike Israel.
They've stated, as recently as August just before President Ahmadinejad came to -- to the U.N. General Assembly. He said that he wanted to eradicate Israel from the face of the earth.
He has said that if he has a nuclear weapon he will use it to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. He will use it against the United States of America.
This isn't just an idle threat. This is a reality. And that's why President Obama has -- has failed the American people because for two and a half years he gave the Iran the luxury of time.
He met with them with no preconditions. It's the doctrine of appeasement. He has changed the course of history because at the time when we needed a leader most, we didn't have one.
That's what I'll do differently as President of the United States. I'll lead.
BLITZER: Thank you. All right. I -- I -- I want to -- I want to -- we're gonna continue this but we have another question from Paul Wolfowitz. Go ahead.
QUESTION: My name is Paul Wolfowitz. I'm a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and my question is about development assistance.
Under George W. Bush, who was a conservative Republican, the United States spent billions of dollars to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa and elsewhere and set up the Millennium Challenge Corporation to encourage governments of poor countries to pursue policies that promote economic growth and job creation.
Do you believe those are still wise expenditures? Or do you think we can no longer afford them?
BLITZER: Senator Santorum?
SANTORUM: Well, as the author of the Global Fund Bill and the Millennium Challenge in the United States Senate and someone who worked with the president on PEPFAR to deal with the issue of AIDS in Africa, I believe it's absolutely essential.
Africa was a country on the brink. On the brink of complete meltdown and chaos, which would have been fertile ground for the radical Islamists to be able to -- to get -- to get a foothold.
We're seeing it already. But the work that we've done in stabilizing that area, while humanitarian in nature, was absolutely essential for our national security.
And I hear people up here talking abut zeroing out foreign aid and humanitarian aid in particular. I think that's absolutely the wrong course.
You want to -- you want to spend more money on the military, zero out all the things we do to develop relationships around the world and we will spend a lot more money on the military.
It's important for us to use all the assets we have. Promote our values. America is that shining city on the hill. It is -- it is the city that comes to the aid of those in trouble in America -- in the world.
We have done more good for America in Africa and in the third world by the things that we've done. And we have saved money and saved military deployments by wisely spending that money not on our enemies but on folks who can and will be our friends.
BLITZER: Herman Cain?
CAIN: Here again...
BLITZER: All right, here's the question. Can the United States afford to continue that kind of foreign assistance to Africa for AIDS, malaria -- could run into the billions of dollars? CAIN: It depends upon priorities. Secondly, it depends upon looking at the program and asking the question, has that aid been successful.
In other words, let's look at the whole problem. It may be worthwhile to continue. It may not. I would like to see the results.
Just like every program we have here domestically, what have the results been. Then we make a decision about how we prioritize.
BLITZER: Ron Paul?
PAUL: I -- I think the aid is all worthless. It doesn't do any good for most of the people. You take money from poor people in this country and you end up giving it to rich people in poor countries.
And they're used as weapons of war so you accomplish nothing. We should export some, maybe some principles about free markets and sound money and maybe they could produce some of their -- their own wealth.
But this whole idea of -- of talking about the endless wars and the endless foreign aid, it seems like nobody cares about the budget. I mean, we -- we're in big trouble and -- and -- and nobody wants to cut anything.
So if you're gonna keep sending foreign aid overseas and these endless wars that you don't have to declare and -- and go into Libya without even consulting with the Congress, the biggest threat -- the biggest threat to our national security is our financial condition.
And this is just aggravating it.
BLITZER: Governor Romney?
ROMNEY: Congressman Paul, what they're doing is cutting a trillion dollars out of the defense budget.