At the GOP debate in South Carolina two weeks ago, former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain was the only candidate who had nothing to say about Afghanistan. Cain said he doesn't understand the mission in Afghanistan, and can't, in good faith, decide what to do with our war there until he'd consulted with the disinterested heads of the Military Industrial Complex.
Frank Luntz's FOX News focus group thought this was a reasonable answer (or, that it was not too offensive), and named Cain the winner of the debate. That part of the pro-war right that responds to any and every appearance of rank-breaking was horrified. Ann Coulter likely nodded sagely and went back to needling a Bill Kristol effigy.
Cain has since been fairly defensive about his non-answer. Yesterday, he released a statement on his website unpacking his deference to the experts:
Ever since the South Carolina Republican presidential debate, reporters have continued to challenge me for not having a specific plan for our nation’s involvement in Afghanistan. They continue to think that if you are running for president then you must have an answer for everything. I don’t! A real leader has the right questions for everything.
When asked about what I would do about our involvement in the war in Afghanistan during the debate, I answered by asking the questions that should have been asked before we got involved many years ago. What is our mission? How does it serve our interest? Is there a path to victory? If not, then what is our exit strategy?
I ask these questions instead of “shooting from the lip” because there is obviously a lot of classified information to which I do not have access. There are dozens of experts and military leaders I would need advice from before I could make an informed decision about a real clear plan for the USA’s involvement in Afghanistan. Similarly, a real clear strategy for every country with which we have relationships would be developed, regardless of whether or not we are involved in a military conflict.
To be clear, I want to be out of Afghanistan and all war-torn countries as much as the next person. But I am not going to propose a half-baked plan based on half the information I would need to make the right decision, just to pretend I know everything.
On the subject of Israel, however, Cain has made up his mind sans access to top-secret intel:
On the other hand, I do know enough about our solid relationship with Israel from decades of observations that I would make it even stronger, which isn’t just about dollars. And, I would not be hesitant to let the rest of the world know that we will stand by and with our friends.