Campaign 2016

National Security Highlights from the 10th GOP Presidential Debate

By Elina Saxena
Saturday, February 27, 2016, 1:36 PM

Ahead of Super Tuesday, the 10th GOP presidential debate took place Thursday in Houston, TX. The debate featured the five remaining Republican presidetial candidates Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump. As has happened in previous debates, the candidates frequently broke out into bickering, prompting neglected candidate Ben Carson to ask “can somebody attack me, please?” Highlighted below are topics which might be of interest to Lawfare readers, including the Israel and Palestine, North Korea, Apple and FBI, and Syria among others.

The national security portion of the debate began with a discussion of Israel and Palestine. Referring to Arab-Israeli negotiations as “probably the toughest negotiation anywhere in the world of any kind,” Trump emphasized his negotiating skills and extolled his alleged popularity with the Israelis. Cruz declared that, if he were president, “America will stand unapologetically with the nation of Israel,” suggesting that “the notion of neutrality is based upon the left buying into this moral relativism that is often pitched in the media.” More or less discounting the Palestinian side, he condemned terrorists threatening Israel. Rubio condemned the governing Palestinian Authority and Hamas for their “bad faith” negotiations and for fueling hatred against Israelis. He too said that he “would stand firmly on the side of Israel,” accusing Trump of treating the issue as a real-estate deal. Carson weighed in, calling Israel a strategic partner and suggested that the United States has “a Judeo Christian foundation, and the last thing we need to do is to reject Israel” but that that did not mean that “we can't be fair to other people.”

On the topic of North Korea, Kasich argued for intercepting ships and aircraft coming from North Korea, increasing sanctions, and providing South Korea and Japan with ballistic missile technology. He also suggested turning to China to “calm the regime down.” Carson called for placing THAAD systems and increasing naval presence in the region. Rubio called for maintaining commitment to Asian-Pacific regional security.

On the topic of the impending cessation of hostilities in Syria, Trump referred to it as a “meaningless ceasefire” and said that “all parties have to be part of it.” Cruz expressed scepticism. The candidates proceeded to condemn the Obama administration’s foreign policy and debate their role in the toppling of Gaddafi. In a general statement on foreign policy, Kasich suggested that “the problem we have in foreign policy right now is that we are not certain with who we stand with. Our allies are not sure what to make of us, and our enemies are moving.” He declared that “when we stand firm and we let the world know who we're with, who we stand for, and we bring our allies together, that is the road forward.”

On the raging battle between Apple and the FBI, Rubio said that, as president, he would force Apple to comply with the DOJ to provide technical assistance to the FBI to help them access the phone involved in the San Bernardino case. He attempted to draw the distinction between the court order requirements and the call for creating back door access to encryption devices. Of Apple, he said that “their brand is not superior to the national security of the United States of America.” Cruz echoed Rubio’s sentiments and also opposed back doors. He added that “Apple doesn't have a right to defy a valid court order in a terrorism investigation.” Agreeing with the others’ sentiments, Carson said that “allowing terrorists to get away with things is bad for America.” Kasich asked where President Obama has been in this debate, suggesting that the executive needed to get involved in getting Apple to comply.

The Washington Post provides the full transcript here. Below are the national security portions of the debate sorted by topic.

Israel and Palestine

BLITZER: You said this about the ongoing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians -- I'm quoting you now: "Let me be sort of a neutral guy. I don't want to say whose fault it is, I don't think it helps." […] Here's the question. How do you remain neutral when the U.S. considers Israel to be America's closest ally in the Middle East?

TRUMP: Well, first of all, I don't think they do under President Obama because I think he's treated Israel horribly, all right? I think he's treated Israel horribly. I was the grand marshall down 5th Avenue a number of years ago for the Israeli Day Parade, I have very close ties to Israel. I've received the Tree of Life Award and many of the greatest awards given by Israel. As president, however, there's nothing that I would rather do to bring peace to Israel and its neighbors generally. And I think it serves no purpose to say that you have a good guy and a bad guy.

Now, I may not be successful in doing it. It's probably the toughest negotiation anywhere in the world of any kind. OK? But it doesn't help if I start saying, "I am very pro-Israel, very pro, more than anybody on this stage." But it doesn't do any good to start demeaning the neighbors, because I would love to do something with regard to negotiating peace, finally, for Israel and for their neighbors.

And I can't do that as well -- as a negotiator, I cannot do that as well if I'm taking big, big sides. With that being said, I am totally pro-Israel.

BLITZER: Senator Cruz?

CRUZ: Well, this is another area on which Donald agrees with Hillary Clinton and on which I disagree with them both strongly. Both Donald and Hillary Clinton want to be neutral, to use Donald's word, between Israel and the Palestinians. Let me be clear. If I'm president, America will stand unapologetically with the nation of Israel.

And the notion of neutrality is based upon the left buying into this moral relativism that is often pitched in the media. Listen, it is not equivalent. When you have terrorist strapping dynamite around their chest, exploding and murdering innocent women and children, they are not equivalent to the IDF officers protecting Israel. And I will not pretend that they are.

Just today, Iran announced they're going to pay $7,000 to each suicide bomber. And I would note, missing from Donald's answer was anything he has done in his nearly 70 years of living defending Israel. I have over and over again led the fight to defend Israel, to fight for Israel. And this -- if you want to know who will stand with Israel, we ought to start with who has stood with Israel when the heat was on.

BLITZER: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: Well, I can only say -- look, I can only say I've been a big contributor to Israel over the years. I've received many, many awards from Israel, as I've said before. I have a great relationship with Israel. And I'm going to keep it that way. And if I could bring peace, that would be a fantastic thing. It would be one of my greatest achievements as president.

BLITZER: Governor Kasich, I want you to weigh in.

KASICH: Well, I mean, well, I was in Congress for 18 years on the Defense Committee. And then, you know, after 9/11, the secretary of defense called me in to help out with some things. And I've been a supporter of Israel -- a strong supporter of Israel longer than anybody on this stage. I didn't give as much money as Donald gave, but I've been standing with the Israelis for a very long time.

[…]

BLITZER: But Senator Rubio, what's wrong with the U.S. being an honest broker in a negotiation, as Mr. Trump is proposing?

RUBIO: Because -- and I don't know if Donald realizes this. I'm sure it's not his intent perhaps. But the position you've taken is an anti-Israel position. And here's why. Because you cannot be an honest broker in a dispute between two sides in which one of the sides is constantly acting in bad faith. The Palestinian Authority has walked away from multiple efforts to make peace, very generous offers from the Israelis. Instead, here's what the Palestinians do. They teach their four- year-old children that killing Jews is a glorious thing. Here's what Hamas does. They launch rockets and terrorist attacks again Israel on an ongoing basis. The bottom line is, a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, given the current makeup of the Palestinians, is not possible.

And so the next president of the United States needs to be someone like me who will stand firmly on the side of Israel. I'm not -- I'm not going to sit here and say, "Oh, I'm not on either side." I will be on a side. I will be on Israel's side every single day because they are the only pro-American, free enterprise democracy in the entire Middle East.

BLITZER: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: I'm a negotiator. I've done very well over the years through negotiation. It's very important that we do that. In all fairness, Marco is not a negotiator. I watched him melt down and I'll tell you, it was one of the saddest things I've ever seen. He's not going down -- excuse me...

RUBIO: He thinks a Palestinian is a real estate deal.

TRUMP: ... wait a minute, and these people may even be tougher than Chris Christie. OK?

RUBIO: The Palestinians are not a real estate deal, Donald.

TRUMP: OK, no, no, no -- a deal is a deal. Let me tell you that. I learned a long time ago.

RUBIO: A deal is not a deal when you're dealing with terrorists. Have you ever negotiated with terrorists?

TRUMP: You are not a negotiator. You are not a negotiator.

TRUMP: And, with your thinking, you will never bring peace. You will never bring peace...

RUBIO: ... Donald, might be able to (inaudible) Palestinians and Arabs, but it's not a real estate deal...

TRUMP: ... Excuse me, I want to be able to bring peace...

BLITZER: ... Senator.

TRUMP: He will never be able to do it. I think I may be able to do it, although I will say this. Probably the toughest deal of any kind is that particular deal.

[…]

CRUZ: And I'll give one more example on Israel. When the Obama administration canceled civilian air flights into the national of Israel, when Hamas was raining rockets down on them, I publicly asked, is this an economic boycott against Israel?

The next day Michael Bloomberg, another New York billionaire, got on a plane, a commercial flight, and flew to Israel from London. Together the heat and light that was put on the State Department was so great that within 36 hours they lifted the ban on air flights into Israel.

During that entire battle, and indeed during every battle on Israel the natural question is, where was Donald? If this is something he cares about, why has he supported anti-Israel politicians from Jimmy Carter to Hillary Clinton to John Kerry for four decades?

If you care about Israel, you don't write checks to politicians who are undermining Israel. Instead you stand and support the national security of America and the alliance with Israel.

[…]

TRUMP: Well, look, my response is very simple. There is nobody on this stage that has done more for Israel than I have. Nobody. You might say, you might talk, you're politicians, all talk, no action.

[…]

CARSON: And as far as Israel is concerned, you know, when I was there several months ago, I talked to a lot of people. I couldn't find a single one who didn't think that we had turned our backs on Israel. You know, they are a strategic partner for us but also recognize that we have a Judeo Christian foundation, and the last thing we need to do is to reject Israel. It doesn't mean that we can't be fair to other people. We can always be fair to other people, but, you know, it's like when you have a child, you know, you want to be fair to all the children around but you have a special attention for your own child.

North Korea

BLITZER: Let's move on to talk about North Korea. You raised it, Governor Kasich. The threat posed by North Korea to the United States and its sallies, the commander of American forces in South Korea said that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would use a weapon of mass destruction if he thought his regime was being threatened. You have said the United States should start examining a strategy of regime change in North Korea.

Let's be clear. Are you talking about getting rid of Kim Jong Un?

KASICH: When you talk about regime change, Wolf, it means regime change. That's what it means. Even though there's so much chaos in North Korea right now, there's a lot of reports of uncertainty, and instability in that government.

But, look, here's what I think we ought to do -- like, immediately. And, we've been kicking the can down the road on this for, I don't know, 15 years. We should be intercepting the ships that are leaving North Korea so they're not selling this material, or this technology, or giving it to someone else.

Secondly, the same goes with the aircraft.

Thirdly, we need to slap even tougher sanctions on North Korea because we really don't have the toughest sanctions on North Korea. We ought to talk about arming South Korea with ballistic missile technology. And, of course, also Japan with ballistic missile technology. Because we're now starting to take a firm position. We have the attention of the Chinese. The Chinese are the best way to calm that regime down and get them in a position of where they back off.

But, when I say regime change, I don't have to talk exactly what that means. Look, I've been involved in national security for a long time. You don't have to spell everything out, but what I'm telling you is you look for any means you can to be able to solve that problem in North Korea, and in the meantime put the pressure on the Chinese. And, what we're doing is beginning to work against them.

They are the key to being able to settle this situation.

BLITZER: I just want to be precise, Governor Kasich, this is critically important. There are a million North Korean troops North of the DMZ...

KASICH: ... I'm very well aware of that.

BLITZER: A million South Korean troops, 28,000 U.S. troops along the DMZ, right in between. Would you risk war for a regime change?

KASICH: Wolf, again, it would depend exactly what, you know, what was happening. What the situation was. But, if there was an opportunity to remove the leader of North Korea and create stability? Because, I'll tell you, you keep kicking the can down the road we're going to face this sooner or later.

But, in the meantime, I'm also aware of the fact that there's 10 million people living in Seoul. So, you don't just run around making charges. I have put it on the table that I would leave to see regime change in North Korea.

Now, perhaps the Chinese can actually accomplish that with this man who is now currently the leader, but the fact is we have to bring everything to bear. We have to be firm, and we've got to unite those people in that part of the world to stand firmly against North Korea, and make sure we have the ballistic […] missile technology to defend ourselves.

[…]

KASICH: let me just say this because he mentioned this. Look, we're all in agreement that the Japanese need to do more. We're all in agreement that the Europeans need to do more, but I hate to just tell everybody we are the leader of the world and we should put the pressure on them to do their job. There is no question about it.

But, at the same time, we also have to rebuild the military. Look, I have a balanced budget plan that cuts taxes, reforms regulations, but also builds the military, puts a $100 billion dollars more in defense. We need to rebuild our defenses,

But, I must also tell you, a long time reformer of the Pentagon, we must reform that building.

We can't have a weapon system take 22 and a half years. We have 800,000 bureaucrats working for DOD, performing bureaucratic functions when we ought to be putting […] these resources into strengthening the military. So, we can do it all...

BLITZER: Dr. Carson, how would you deal with North Korea?

CARSON: […] as far as North Korea is concerned, you know, Kim Jung Un is an unstable person, but he does understand strength. And I think we have to present strength to him. We should be encouraging the alliance with Japan and South Korea. We should be encouraging the placement of the THAAD, the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, that seems to disturb not only the North Koreans but the Chinese as well.

And we also need to have a much more robust naval presence in that area, and I think we need to be developing strategic defense initiative because this man is going to have long-range missiles, he is going to have nuclear capabilities. We need to be able to defend ourselves. And lastly, we should make sure that he knows that if he ever shoots a missile at us, it will be the last thing he ever does.

[…]

RUBIO: And the last point I would make on South Korea, now this is important, because we're asking to be commander-in-chief. Donald is asking to be commander-in-chief. And he's saying these guys need to do more.

South Korea contributes $800 million a year to that effort. And Japan contributes as well. And here's why our commitment to that regional security is so critical, Donald, because if we walk away from them, both Japan and South Korea will become nuclear weapons powers.

They can do that very quickly. And that's what they will do if the American defense agreements wither away, which is why we have to rebuild the military, but why we can't walk away from our Asia-Pacific defense status.

Syria

HEWITT: We are less than 24 hours away from a ceasefire in Syria that has been brokered between the U.S. and Russia. Do you support this ceasefire?

TRUMP: I really don't because it not working and the countries aren't agreeing to it and the rebels aren't agreeing and Syria is not agreeing. So It's a meaningless ceasefire.

I love the idea of a ceasefire. I love the idea of -- with a total cessation. But it's not working, as you know very well. It's not working. If -- we can do what we want with Russia but nobody else is adhering to it.

So I certainly support it, I would certainly love it, but all parties have to be part of it.

HEWITT: Senator Cruz, your opinion on the ceasefire.

CRUZ: Well look. We're certainly hopeful that the violence will cease, but there's reason to be highly skeptical. Russia has enhanced its position because of Obama's weakness in the Middle East, weakness in Syria. And you know, as we're headed to November, we need no nominate a Republican candidate that can lay out a clear difference with both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on foreign policy.

[…]

Libya and the Obama Administration’s Foreign Policy

CRUZ: One of the real challenges with both Donald and Senator Rubio is that they have agreed over and over again with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. So for example, in Libya, both of them agreed with the Obama/Clinton policy of toppling the government in Libya. That was a disaster. It gave the country over to radical Islamic terrorism and it endangered America.

Another example is John Kerry. John Kerry -- Senator Rubio voted to confirm John Kerry as secretary of State. I voted against him. And Donald Trump supported John Kerry against George W. Bush in 2004, gave him a check. And John Kerry has been the most anti-Israel secretary of State this country has ever seen. His diplomacy has been a disaster. And if we nominate someone who agreed with John Kerry, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on foreign policy, we're not in a strong position to win the general election.

[…]

TRUMP: But let me just tell you, Syria, he's saying that I was in favor of Syria. He said I was in favor of Libya? I never discussed that subject. I was in favor of Libya? We would be so much better off if Gadhafi were in charge right now.

If these politicians went to the beach and didn't do a thing, and we had Saddam Hussein and if we had Gadhafi in charge, instead of having terrorism all over the place, we'd be -- at least they killed terrorists, all right?

And I'm not saying they were good because they were bad, they were really bad, but we don't know what we're getting. You look at Libya right now, ISIS, as we speak, is taking over their oil. As we speak, it's a total mess.

We would have been better off if the politicians took a day off instead of going into war.

[…]

RUBIO: Yes, a couple of points. Number one, on the Libya situation, we didn't topple Gadhafi, the Libyan people toppled Gadhafi. The only choice before America that this president had to make is, does it happen quickly or does it take a long time?

And I argued if it takes a long time, you're going to have rebel forces emerge like these radical Islamists to take advantage of the vacuum. And that's what happened. That's where the term "lead from behind" came. And that's the foreign policy that apparently Senator Cruz appears to agree with.

On John Kerry, yes, you know why, because every day John Kerry wasn't appointed was another day Hillary Clinton was still in charge of the State Department. And she was absolutely horrible.

I couldn't imagine that they were going to find somebody even worse than her, but this president never ceases to amaze.

[…]

TRUMP: I never said walk away. I wouldn't want to walk away. I want them to pay us much more money. We cannot afford to subsidize...

RUBIO: How much?

TRUMP: A lot. I'll negotiate a lot more money than you'll ever get.

As far as John Kerry is concerned, there has been no tougher critic of this man, I think he negotiated one of the worst deals in the history of our country, the Iran deal, where they get their $150 billion and all of the other things that take place.

It is a disaster for this country, and speaking of Israel, it's a disaster for Israel. I'm no fan of John Kerry.

BLITZER: Hold on, hold on, Governor.Senator Cruz.

CRUZ: You know, it's interesting, Donald just said that he never came out in favor of toppling Gadhafi in Libya. Well, he stated that in an interview that will be on our Web site, tedcruz.org.

You can see and hear the exact words from Donald's mouth. And I assume when he sees that interview, maybe he forgot about it, but I assume Donald will apologize where he sees that he said exactly that.

With regard to John Kerry, I will say John Kerry's foreign policy has been a disaster for decades. That's why I voted against him when he came up. And the fact that Donald Trump would write him a check and support him against George W. Bush shows exceptionally poor foreign policy judgment.

[…]

KASICH: There's something -- I want to -- I want to point out something here today that is -- it's so critically important -- about how the Obama administration has really done such a ridiculous, feckless job here in foreign policy.

First of all, we should have been supporting the rebels long ago. They could have taken Assad out, and because we did nothing, the Russians are in, and they're sitting in the catbird seat.

We should have been helping them. I'm thankful that the aid trucks are finally getting into Syria. But the fact is, had we had acted, we would have solved that problem.

Now, let's talk about Libya. Libya didn't go down because there was some people revolution. Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power and all these other people convinced the president to undermine Gadhafi. They undermined him, and now they have created a cesspool in Libya.

And let me just say to you -- we have ISIS beginning get -- get a foothold in Libya. We're gonna have to deal with it. There are not many major cities in Libya. They're on the coast, which -- mostly, it's desert, but it's a problem.

Then we have ISIS in -- in Syria, and we have ISIS in Iraq. Because this administration has not had a strong and firm foreign policy, we are going to inherit -- one of us here is going to inherit a total mess[…] and we're going to have to work our way out of it, including [...] the need to arm the Ukrainians. They have been ignored, and we need to help them as well […] and assert ourselves as America.

Apple and the FBI

BLITZER: There's a huge battle underway right now between the tech giant Apple and the federal government. The federal government wants Apple to unlock the phone used by that San Bernardino terrorist to prevent future attacks. Apple has refused, saying it would compromise the security of all of its customers. And just this afternoon, they went to court to block the judge's order.

Dana Bash, pick up the questioning.

BASH: Senator Rubio, you say it's complicated, and that, quote, "Apple isn't necessarily wrong to refuse the court order." Why shouldn't investigators have everything at their disposal?

RUBIO: No, in fact what I have said is the only thing -- the FBI made this very clear 48 hours ago -- the only thing they are asking of Apple is that Apple allow them to use their own systems in the FBI to try to guess the password of the San Bernardino killer. Apple initially came out saying, "We're being ordered to create a back door to an encryption device." That is not accurate.

The only thing they're being asked to do, and the FBI made this very clear about 48 hours ago, is allow us to disable the self- destruct mode that's in the Apple phone so that we can try to guess using our own systems what the password of this killer was.

And I think they should comply with that. If that's all they're asking for, they are not asking for Apple to create a back door to encryption.

BASH: So just to be clear, you did say on CNN a couple of weeks ago this is a complicated issue; Apple is not necessarily wrong here.

RUBIO: Because at the time, Apple was portraying that the court order was to create a back door to an encryption device.

BASH: But just to be clear -- just to be clear, if you are president, would you instruct your Justice Department to force Apple to comply or not?

RUBIO: To comply with an order that says that they have to allow the FBI the opportunity to try to guess the password?

BASH: Correct.

RUBIO: Absolutely. That Apple phone didn't even belong to the killer. It belonged to the killer's employee (sic) who have agreed to allow him to try to do this. That is all they're asking them to do is to disable the self-destruct mode or the auto-erase mode on one phone in the entire world. But Apple doesn't want to do it because they think it hurts their brand.

Well, let me tell you, their brand is not superior to the national security of the United States of America.

BASH: Senator Cruz, Apple CEO Tim Cook says this would be bad for America. Where do you stand: national security or personal privacy?

CRUZ: Well, as you know, at that same CNN forum, both Marco and I were asked this question. His answer, he was on both sides of the fence. He's now agreeing with me. And so I'm glad.

What I said is yes, Apple should be forced to comply with this court order. Why? Because under the Fourth Amendment, a search and seizure is reasonable if it has judicial authorization and probable cause. In this instance, the order is not put a back door in everyone's cell phone. If that was the order, that order would be problematic because it would compromise security and safety for everyone.

I would agree with Apple on that broad policy question. But on the question of unlocking this cell phone of a terrorist, we should enforce the court order and find out everyone that terrorist at San Bernardino talked to on the phone, texted with, e-mailed. And absolutely, Apple doesn't have a right to defy a valid court order in a terrorism investigation.

BASH: Dr. Carson, Tim Cook, again, the CEO of Apple, says that this would be bad for America. What do you think?

CARSON: I think allowing terrorist to get away with things is bad for America.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, we have the -- we have a Constitution. We have a Fourth Amendment. It guards us against illegal and unreasonable search and seizure. But we have mechanisms in place with the judicial system that will allow us to gain material that is necessary to benefit the nation as a whole or the community as a whole. And that's why we have FISA courts and things of that nature.

So absolutely, I would -- I would expect Apple to comply with the court order. If they don't comply with that, you're encouraging chaos in our system.

KASICH: I want to weigh in on this please. I want to just tell you that the problem is not right now between the administration and Apple. You know what the problem is? Where's the president been? You sit down in a back room and you sit down with the parties and you get this worked out. You don't litigate this on the front page of the New York Times, where everybody in the world is reading about their dirty laundry out here.

The president of the United States should be convening a meeting, should have convened a meeting with Apple and our security forces. And then you know what you do when you're the president? You lock the door and you say you're not coming out until you reach an agreement that both gives the security people what they need and protects the rights of Americans. This is a failure of his leadership to get this done as an executive should be doing it.

And I'll tell you, that's why you want a governor. I do this all the time. And we reach agreements all the time. Because as an executive, you've got to solve problems instead of fighting on the front page of the newspaper.

General

KASICH: I think the problem we have in foreign policy right now, Wolf, is that we are not certain with who we stand with. Our allies are not sure what to make of us, and our enemies are moving. And one -- are moving because they're not sure what we will do. It's a very interesting development here within the 24 hours. We said to the South Koreans that we would give them the high altitude defense system. It really rattled the Chinese, and for the first time since we took positive action, the Chinese are beginning to take action against North Korea.

When we stand firm and we let the world know who we're with, who we stand for, and we bring our allies together, that is the road forward.

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