Foreign Policy Returns to the Forefront on Sunday Shows

Posted September 27, 2009 at 12:17pm

National security issues took center stage on the Sunday TV talk shows as policymakers shifted their focus from the health care debate on Capitol Hill to the war in Afghanistan and the possibility that Iran is manufacturing nuclear weapons. Senate Democrats defended President Barack Obama’s cautious approach to a troop increase in Afghanistan recommended by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO International Security Assistance Force commander, in a classified memo late last month. “I think the president is correct to take his time and really examine what the alternatives are at this time,— Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said on “Fox News Sunday.— She described the McChrystal memo as a “10-year plan— and said that all other options should be examined before a prolonged military commitment to the region is enacted.“Now the question comes is there an alternative to this long-term, complicated and full-blown counter-insurgency strategy which [McChrystal] has laid out?— she asked. “I hope there is because I do not believe the American people want to be in Afghanistan for the next 10 years effectively nation-building.—Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) counseled the same approach, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press.—“We are talking about an increase in United States military presence, you may reach a tipping point where they become viewed in historical terms as an occupying force,— Webb said. Several Republican Senators on the news shows said the president would be wise to take the advice of the commanders on the ground or risk emboldening terrorists in the region. “We need troops now — if we fail to provide that assistance now it’ll be too late,— Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) said on “Fox News Sunday.—Speaking on two programs, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the Obama administration is considering its options carefully in Afghanistan and has refused to rule out any of them. Republicans said Iran should face heavy sanctions after the world learned on Friday that Iranians had built an unauthorized nuclear enrichment site in violation of international law.“I think it illustrates the fact that at a certain point talking is counter-productive rather than productive because time is not on our side,— said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). “All the Iranians need is time to develop their nuclear weaponry and their missiles and as a result of that, you have to argue that talk has to stop and solid action in the form of sanctions or some other form of stopping must happen.— Democrats urged patience until the diplomatic talks between Iran, the United States and five other major powers occur Thursday. “I think what we have right now is a process in place where we can begin to explore what the Iranian intentions are — the value of opening up the dialogue,— Webb said, but added that China, which has largely remained neutral in international disputes with Iran, would have to get involved. Kyl agreed with Webb that China must become engaged, but was not convinced that Iran would respond to diplomacy and that the threat of withering sanctions must be imminent. “China remains intractable,— Kyl said. “They have a lot of reasons to not want to help us in dealing with Iran.— He added, “I think without that kind of stick, just the carrot approach does not work with [Iran]. They know how to play ‘rope a dope’; they’ve been doing it with us for years.—And speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,— Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he feared “a trifecta— of foreign policy disasters — Iran, Afghanistan and insufficient support from NATO allies in these troubled spots — could severely hurt the U.S.Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.