War

Restaurant Executive Herman Cain Stands by His Non-Answer On Afghanistan

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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.

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  1. If you can not answer a simple question regarding the size and scope of military action, you, sir, are not a leader. If you have to hide behind the lame pretext that you need to consult with military “experts” before deciding whether or not it makes sense to continue to spend billions of dollars a day in making war, you are a LOSER, not a leader.

    1. You know who else had a quick, clear answer for Afghanistan?

      1. Brezhnev?

      2. Charlie Wilson?

      3. Shah?b-ud-Din Muhammad Ghori?

      4. Alexander the Great?

      5. The Joos?

    2. Let me play Devil’s advocate here for a moment.

      IF [make this IF in letters 8 stories high] one were in fact to trust the “heads of the Military Industrial Complex” and believe that they were in fact “disinterested” and simply able to give him good, objective, honest information; would you not say that his answer at the debate in SC was a good one?

      I for one do not trust the Military Industrial Complex but he was not seeking the votes of people with my political beliefs; he was seeking the votes of conservatives.

      1. Even if those military leaders can produce honest and objective evidence of potential threats, at some point a president has to look back across the table at his military advisors and say, “I appreciate your advice, but we are broke and so we simply cannot afford to do anything and everything to deal with potential threats.”

        Even if Herman Cain is not privy to all the intelligence on various terrorist networks such as Al Qaeda, the fiscal mess we are in is public knowledge and it makes reducing our military expenditures necessary.

        I don’t believe nation-building is an effective policy, but even if it was, we simply cannot afford to continue nation-building.

  2. 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.

    Cain has always been a stooge for the Kosher Pizza lobby.

    1. reason shouldn’t cover any candidates who are not Ron Paul or Gary Johnson.

      Seriously, who the fuck cares about these other KLOWNZ?

  3. “A real leader has the right questions for everything”
    _
    cain is an example of the vast diff bet a mgr & a leader. Leaders have vision & motivate people while managers have only questions which sound tough to mask basic ignorance.

    1. I don’t understand how you come up with a decent vision or motivate people if you never ask questions.

      I dunno. Maybe you’re a fan of the Zapp Brannigan school of leadership?

      1. I agree with Fatty Bolger, always having an immediate gut answer to everything isn’t necessarily a good quality in a President, but it’s one people like to see.

      2. spoken like a civilian

        1. Yeah, because commanding officers never ask for information before making a decision, they just shoot from the hip, like cowboys.

          1. no mr manager but ur ignorance isnt surprising in the least. leaders have fundamental expertise in the subject matter & tend to ask detail questions to sharpen their vision. managers however ask “the tough questions” because they dont know what they’re talking about.

            1. So now questions are great, but somehow “the right questions” (Cain’s words) has morphed into “the tough questions” (your words)?

              Careful, man. Somebody might get the impression that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

            2. Cain should be leading like when Obama closed Gitmo!!!

              See how Obama did it? He was a leader so he got all the facts first before he made his commitment and then led the people there. Like Moses, only with creased pants.

    2. Invoking a leader’s “vision” is usually a way of papering over their failures with a storytime narrative.

  4. Being that Cain isn’t a liberal, can one criticize him without being accused of racism?

    1. Sure you can! In fact, liberals love referring to Condoleeza Rice as Aunt Jemima and calling Clarence Thomas an Uncle Tom.

      And let’s not forget that uber-sensitive comment from Hillary Clinton referring to the GOP running the House like a plantation. She said that to a black audience on MLK day.

      Yup, when it comes to black conservative, the DNC wears the hood proudly.

    2. We’ll allow that.

    3. Hell, it’s required!

  5. Do they have a Kabul franchise for Godfather’s yet?

  6. Do they have a Kabul franchise for Godfather’s yet?

    1. There’s a Pizza hut on one of the bases. (I think KFC is the only multinational fast food chain out in town)

  7. I think what Cain is missing is that, while these are legitimate answers for a President to ask his staff:

    Is there a path to victory? If not, then what is our exit strategy?

    These are questions that for which the President must supply the answers:

    What is our mission? How does it serve our interest?

    Disappointing. I kind of liked him, but I don’t think he has a clear grasp of what being President really means.

    1. In a way, I kinda admire his answer. Although, he could have a clear set of ideas and simply admit that they are subject to change as he learned more about a topic he admittedly knows very little.

      1. I liked his answers to. A politician who doesn’t think he has the answer to every single thing? How refreshing. Also, probably doomed.

        1. I have to agree. I’d like to hear a basic philosophy on war from him, but the modesty and caution aren’t bad things at all.

          1. If we were discussing new and emerging threats, I would also find this modesty and caution admirable and appropriate. However, we have been involved in this war for 10 years now. While some intelligence is classified, the fact that we fund much of our nation-building with borrowed money, and that the government we are propping up is corrupt, are all well-known and documented. I’m not sure what new evidence would need to emerge for me to say, let’s spend another few years and billions of dollars there.

            I do agree with you, though, that we should demand that Herman Cain, or any candidate, at least state a basic philosophy on war.

            1. “Modesty and caution”?

              If you are seeking to lead a papers please society upon the basis that you will continue demanding papers and you do not swear off the imperial presidency, you are not “modest”.

      2. I don’t really get why he’s getting hammered on this so much. I thought he had the best answer on the subject after Paul & Johnson. The politicians that are saying we need to stay, without giving any realistic goals. They are the ones who should be getting pressed for a real answer on the subject.

    2. These are questions that for which the President must supply the answers:

      What is our mission? How does it serve our interest?

      What is our President’s answer on these questions?

      1. Uhh, Present?

        1. Well, you said a President. I was kind of wondering about the President.

    3. Part of the Military Decision Making Process is restating the mission. It is entirely appropriate for a commander to have the staff restate the mission. It is entirely possible that the staff elements don’t understand what the commander’s mission is, or the commander didn’t clearly communicate what his desired mission was.

      I doubt that Mr. Cain was saying that was a question he’d ask because he’d want to make sure the military leaders were clearly understanding his mission as the CIC, but it is a valid question for a commander to ask.

    4. Yes. His conflation of matters of fact with those of opinion means he’s either dumb or playing dumb.

    1. The clowns are all piling out of the car one by one.

    2. “…niggers to the left of me, and niggers to the right….”

      1. “…here I am, stuck in the middle with Jooz…

        1. Did someone say “Jews”?

          1. No, they said Juche.

            1. Wasn’t me.

  8. It sounds to me too much like the answers potential Supreme Court justices give during confirmation hearings nowadays: I can’t tell you my stance because I haven’t heard the case yet.

    Or maybe it’s like Pelosi and the Healthcare bill: we have to elect him to know what’s in him.

    1. He should have said he had a secret plan to end the war.

      1. Score!

  9. “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.”

    You all are a bunch of fucking frauds. This isn’t what Cain said. Why don’t you condemn demagoguery that you agree with? “Reason” my hairy white ass.

    1. It is a bit of a stretched assumption from the author.

    2. And they know nothing–nothing at all–about cluster-analysis!

      1. hahahaha, awesome

    3. Does this mean “drink”?

    4. Drink!

    5. It started when moderator Bret Baier asked Cain about a statement Cain made in an interview in January in which Cain said that as president he would rely heavily on whatever his generals and the experts told him should be done in the war. “You’re running for president,” Baier said to Cain. “After almost ten years in Afghanistan, you don’t have your own plan yet about what you would do in Afghanistan?”

      “No,” Cain answered. ‘Because it’s not clear what the mission is. That’s the bigger problem. It’s not clear what the mission is?”

      Baier followed up: “How would you define winning in Afghanistan right now, as you’re looking at it as a candidate?”

      “My point is,” Cain explained, “the experts and their advice and their input would be the basis for me making that decision. I’m not privy to a lot of confidential information.”

      So.. the leader needs the experts to tell him what the mission is? What a win is? Why have a leader then?

      Sorry, if this guy can’t after 10 years come up with what our mission in Afghanistan should be on his own then he should be immediately disqualified.

  10. I find his comment refreshing. If every aspiring politician openly admitted his lack of depth in certain areas instead of pandering to the base of his party, I’d wager our nation would have more realistic expectations than “waters receding and the earth beginning to heal.”

    1. Didn’t Obama use the same exact gist on how he’d be a foreign policy leader? I don’t really see how Cain’s stance is any different?

      I know, I know, double racism…

  11. This is not that bad – it beats most of the other GOP candidates + Obama. I don’t know why Riggs is up in the arms.

  12. I think a significant problem with our “leaders” is the tendency to always have an opinion, no matter how ignorant or knee-jerk.
    Cain’s response was refreshing. If he is intelligent about his other answers, then I give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.
    Honestly, do any of you know what the fuck we are doing in Afghanistan? I am sure 99% of you want to leave, but figuring out the least bad way to leave is the hard part.
    Compared to the party line from team red or team blue, this appears more thoughtful.

    1. I think if you’re runnig for president, you should at least have some clue on what you would want to do. But I totally agree, when I read the answer, my thought was how refreshing, a guy who doens’t have a 15 point plan for every thing happening in the world. As it’s still early, he can get away with it. But sooner or later, he’ll have to come up with something otherwise he’s a Ross Peirot “let’s open the hood and see what we can tinker with” guy with no vision and no ideas.

    2. If he wanted to leave afghan he would of said that. Why give ex-fed employee benefit of the doubt. People who are truly scared to live in a free country always looks for a poser to vote for. Benefit of doubt, man, what’s next another “compassinate conservative”.

  13. You know what else we can infer from Cain’s non-Afghanistan answer?

    He’s not a career politician.

    Bug or feature?

    1. I infer that Cain is either to stupid or lacks principle.

  14. Godfathers? Birth school work death.

    1. “Doesn’t matter what I say
      Tomorrow’s still another day”

  15. All presidential candidates should have at least the foreign policy know-how of a junior senator from Illinois.

  16. It is never “refreshing” for a politician to cite lack of knowledge as the basis for refusing to answer a question regarding the continuation of a war which was not constitutionally authorized and which is contributing to our growing impoverishment.

    If Cain’s answer is “refreshing”, who needs fetidity?

    1. So you’d rather him mouth some platitudes about freedom and democracy?

      It’s funny that if you compare his response to the others you get the feeling that besides Johnson and Paul he’s the only one who honestly answers the question. It would be nice to make a principled stand in defense of our presence there, or like Paul and Johnson argue that we need to leave yesterday, but if that’s not what he thinks then why should he answer that way?

      What’s wrong with him saying “I’m not competently informed enough about the current dynamics in the region to offer a reasonable opinion, therefore I’m not going to give you one”- as opposed to “USA!! USA!!”

      Honesty, how the fuck does it work?

      1. So you’d rather him mouth some platitudes about freedom and democracy?

        Yes. Something about “winning the future” would be nice.

        1. No, I do not want him or any other candidate mouthing empty platitudes.

          However, if you boast that you are a friend of liberty, as Cain has, you do not need to hesitate or hide behind the pretext of “I don’t know” in order to answer the question. If you favor liberty, you say so.

          Applying that principle to the continuation of making war in Afghanistan is not that difficult. You simply respond that if elected, you would move to immediately end the war.

          Furthermore, how can it be refreshing for a candidate to hem and haw about an issue that is bankrupting us. If one is serious about debt reduction / elimination, one does not need to consult with military leaders in order to ascertain whether the continuation of the war will lead to even greater debt.

          Military leaders are great at adding to the debt, not reducing it.

          1. I don’t think an R candidate can win the nomination saying he will clear out of Afghanistan. Yet. In 12 months, yes.

    2. If Cain gave this answer before we had put soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan, he should be heckled off the stage.

      Since the question really is “what are you going to do about the war that Bush started and Obama expanded?”, his response in not totally unreasonable.

  17. Meh, Cain strikes me as Alan Keyes with half the eloquence and twice the pandering.

    1. That’s a great analogy, but Keyes is more of a nutjob

    2. I honestly don’t see much similarity between Keyes and Cain, other than their skin, which is obviously irrelevant.

      For one thing, Cain appears sane.

  18. I am going to have to disagree that this answer is somehow refreshing. A presidential candidate admitting that he doesn’t have all the answers is nice but this war is 10 years old now. He should have some idea by now about whats going on. Furthermore, it only shows that he does not have a set of principles to apply to foreign intervention in general. As Ron Paul said in the same debate we need to entirely rethink our foreign policy before we go broke.

    1. I didn’t see the debate so I don’t know exactly what Cain said, but I would say it comes down to exactly how he said “I don’t know.” To simply punt on the issue by declaring “I don’t know all the facts” is troubling because I need to know some basis by which a candidate will reach decisions on matters of foreign policy. At least give me your opinion based on what you now know and then explain why its subject to amendment. Basically, I can accept an “I don’t know” based on a lack of current information if you show me the aptitude to make a responsible decision ONCE YOU KNOW ALL THE FACTS; I’m just not sure if Cain has such aptitude or if he’s simply avoiding the question.

      More troubling for me is Welch’s last comment about Cain and Israel, which I think clearly conflicts with his “I don’t know” on Afghanistan.

      1. He essentially asked the exact same questions he repeated in the excerpt above.

        “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 don’t think you need to talk to military people to answer any of those questions except maybe the last one (does he mean how we go about leaving or what our plan is for when to leave, only the first needs military advice). Even if you think they need to be consulted, as a candidate for president he should largely be asking the American people’s opinions on the matter. The military is supposed to serve us not the other way around.

  19. What Cain said is this:

    I am not privy to the global chessboard strategy already decided long before me.

    If I were to become president, I would get up to speed on what the global chessboard strategy is, exactly, and then strive to not engage in military action, if possible, as on it’s face, Afghanistan seems like a waste.

    Many of the comments seem to reflect shallow thought and perhaps this Cain guy is too smart for those who have taken a negative view over his answer.

    1. Shouldn’t he be coming up with his own “global chessboard strategy” and not just assuming that previous presidents are doing the right thing? I actually think that his answer was better than your interpretation of it.

      1. Should he? Before he gets paid for the job, he should squander his time and significant buckage?

        The real world doesn’t work that way, son.

      2. No one with appropriate reading comprehension skills could interpret that either myself or Cain have condoned what previous presidents have acquiesced to doing.

        If you can understand what Cain said, he said, in short, that (1) he doesn’t approve of Afghanistan (2) he needs to learn the whys of the current strategy to see if it is prudent to continue or not.

        1. That’s it Al we are just to stupid to figure out the complex non-thoughts of Cain. Fuck you. We think for ourselves not pushing it off to the “experts in DC. No one here is your fucking son.

  20. Cain said he doesn’t understand the mission in Afghanistan

    Does anyone? I got the early part about overthrowing and killing anyone who might harbor or abet aggression against the United States. I haven’t heard a clear statement from the government on whether that goal has or hasn’t been met.

  21. He could have been honest and said he’d get out tomorrow if he didn’t think he could score some defense contributors.

  22. The best part of a non-answer: it’s never not right!

  23. And why the hell is Andrew Breitbart hyping Herman Cain on Twitter this morning? This is a man who supported TARP and Mitt “Romneycare” Romney. Who thinks it’s a good idea for the GOP to just lay down on the top two issues that could help topple Obama in 2012?

  24. Caaaain!

  25. A couple of months ago there was a H&R post where Cain, on video, said he’d never appoint a Muslim to his administration. He was on Cavuto’s show on Fox and backpeddled from that statement.

    I think this is a telling sign about Mr. Cain. He either:

    1. Holds somewhat far-out positions on Muslims, but he’s not man enough to stand by what he says.

    or

    2. Doesn’t really hold those positions, but wants to cater to those who do.

    I have a hard time believing anyone who thinks Cain deserves the GOP nomination more than Ron Paul.

  26. Nobody but Ron Paul!!!!111eleventy1!!!11

  27. I doubt that Mr. Cain was saying that was a question he’d ask because he’d want to make sure the military leaders were clearly understanding his mission as the CIC, but it is a valid question for a commander to ask.

    Sure, as in “What the fuck do you clowns think the mission is? Because whatever it is you think you’re doing, it sure as hell isn’t what you ought to be doing.”

    The “ought to be doing” is the mission, and that is for the President to determine, not to discover by chatting with subordinates.

    That said, this isn’t a bad answer:

    If I were to become president, I would get up to speed on what the global chessboard strategy is, exactly, and then strive to not engage in military action, if possible, as on it’s face, Afghanistan seems like a waste.

    He seems to be saying that our current activities may or may not have an overarching plan; to the naked eye, they appear to be pretty fucked up. But he’ll ask around, maybe there is a plan.

    Better to finish that thought with the direction he would like to see us take, though.

    1. 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.

      I didn’t see the debate, but it sounds like he needed to say this then instead of now.

    2. What is the mission, is a vaild question now that OBL is dead.

  28. I don’t mind the original answer, but I do want to know how that jives with, “But I know everything there is to know about Israel, our relationship with them, and the dynamics in that part of the Muslim world, so I can go ahead and make a definitive statement on this subject w/o access to classified information.” (/paraphrase)

    1. It’s about not carelessly throwing your allies under the bus.

      Which is something the guy currently holding down the job does not understand.

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