I should note as well that some people are much better on some issues than others. Finally, I hold that torture is utterly reprehensible; it is by my book a far worse thing than extrajudicial killing for political reasons. Anyone who orders, performs, or knowingly takes part in part of an organisation that does torture is an enemy of humanity and should face mandatory and summary execution. No exceptions. We are a civilised people. We do not torture, no matter what benefits may accrue. This is one of the few red lines that we will not cross. Extrajudicial killing is sometimes necessary and sometimes acceptable. Torture is not acceptable even if it appears necessary; whatever we lose out on by not doing it, we are comitted to losing out on. I recognise that given how precious civilisation is, we may occasionally be called to do ugly things to preserve it, but we can afford not to torture; choosing to do so redefines us as not being civilised; not worthy of salvation regardless of all our other traits.
Kudos to John McCain for taking a principled stand against torture against the clear (and to me, dehumanising) voice of many of his party. To everyone else who takes a firm, hard stand against torture, while understanding the other messy things we may be called to do to preserve and advance the cause of civilisation, bravo.
Moving on, PJ Crowley has offered ten questions for republican candidates, but these questions are sufficiently generic (and I am full enough of opinions on basically anything) that I'll take a crack at them too.
*I am not prepared to either apply sanctions or attack Iran for having nuclear weapons per se, although in general I would apply pressure on any nation for allowing open inspection of nuclear facilities, given how uniquely harmful nuclear weapons are. I don't believe state actors are as dangerous as non-state actors in this sense. We have already allowed irresponsible powers, such as Israel, to join the nuclear club. Iran would not be a significantly terrible addition to that club, although in general we should not celebrate or encourage new entrants. By contrast, nuclear power is acceptable worldwide as a reasonable energy solution, and we cannot reasonably demand other nations refrain from that.
*I don't believe such a declaration could take effect unless we could disarm Israel, and in the long run it will be very difficult to sustain the middle east as a nuclear-weapons-free-zone given the state interest in acquiring it against hostile powers. I think in general we should attempt to make it difficult to gain weapons-grade materials, but in the long run declaring it free of that is impossible (and will likely be obsoleted by future weapons that are harder to control).
*I believe the intervention in Libya was well-intended, well-done, and had positive results. It was poltically appropriate to have the Arab League involved and to avoid boots on the ground. None of us outside the White House truly understand all the options that were on the table, but at least as far as can easily be gagued, Obama handled it well.
*Iraq was different than Libya; the styles of intervention were suited to each situation. Our foreign policy should not be judged so tightly by our economics; we should be willing to pay very heavily to prevent genocides. That said, Iraq was unwise to enter because there was not a compelling reason to do so. We may have helped make the Arab Spring possible by that invasion, but even if so, the invasion was not itself just and should not have happened.
*I don't care about Ronald Reagan. He was a poor president. Not being intimately familiar with our defense budget, I am not willing to commit to deeper defense cuts. I would rely on economic advisors, most notably the bipartisian budget committee and the joint chiefs of staff, to make this decision, to the extent that the executive branch handles budget matters; that authority in the end rests in Congress, even if the Executive branch can attempt to set an agenda and start discussions
*I am comitted to stay in Afghanistan for as long as it takes to stabilise the country, although I would like to see broader western engagement and some way to strengthen Pakistan as a nation (and get it to stop focusing on a potential confrontation with India as its military paradigm; poor India-Pakistan ties are a major threat to regional stability and Pakistani development).
*I am not a strong supporter of Israel. We will keep its security in mind, but it must have radical changes in governance, policy, and foreign relations if we are to maintain close relations with them. We want them to choose between being a multi-ethnic state with no prejudice for jewish people and withdrawing from Yerushalaim, dismantling settlements, and providing good, contiguous land for a palestinian state which they would live alongside. This must happen within the 4-8 years I would be in office, with enormous pressure put on both sides to reach a settlement as soon as possible. I would first block all J-Street and AIPAC lobbyists from contacting my administration and launch a media campaign suggesting their ends are selling out American interests for foreign ones. If steps towards Israeli-Palestinian peace are not reached, I would cut off all military and financial aid, bar selling of weapons (or weapons material) to Israel, cease to accept dual American-Israeli citizenship, and establish tarriffs (and encourage allies to do so). I would do symmetric things to pressure Fatah towards peace, while striving to isolate Hamas. A solid resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be a major focus of my administration.
*In the short-term, climate change is a world issue, but not a national security one. In the longer term, it will be. Dealing with it will not be solved through national security type moves; the problem is significantly regulatory/industrial/trade related.
*Any intervention in Mexico would have to be done in concert with the Mexican government. To the extent that it is having difficulty securing its own soil, it is losing sovereignty; I would offer military aid and coordination in wiping out the Zetas and other drug gangs. As to restricting local arms sales, there are legal issues; there are at least two reasonable interpretations of our second amendment and weapons policy, one of which ties to personal defense, the other to combating an unjust government. I am most inclined to focus on military and other aid to Mexico rather than arms control; I lack a strong opinion on gun control and would probably put the issue to a national referendum or call a constitutional convention, given that this impacts the Bill of Rights and a number of people have strong opinions on the matter. I am open to us finally dealing with the meaning of the second amendment in a more definitive manner, but I would prefer that manner be done in an inclusive, national way rather than having it be decided by the policy needs of the time
*I recognise that cases of terrorism might involve information sources that would be dangerous to discuss in the public eye; I would rather have some kind of a civilian committee hear an argument before a judge as to whether they actually do rely on confidential information or not, and disallow the death penalty for terrorism charges handled in military courts (so as to balance the interests).