The third topic was the Arab Spring, a round that was won by Gingrich. Huntsman said the U.S. shouldn’t pick sides without knowing “who will be up or down” and stood opposed to the intervention in Libya. He indicated he could support some sort of intervention in Syria, saying Assad poses a national security risk that Gaddafi didn’t. He then pivoted to China and how its leaders feared their own uprising and banned his name from the Internet.
Gingrich criticized the Obama administration for turning against Mubarak, and said it makes the U.S. look like an unreliable ally. He spoke about the need for an ideological war against radical Islam that includes promoting women’s rights, entrepreneurship, and supporters of modernity so that the next generation “understands something other than Sharia.” Translation of books into Arabic, scholarships for education in the U.S., and other means of soft-power would be used in this long-range strategy.
The fourth topic was defense spending. Gingrich also won this portion, calling himself a “cheap hawk.” He railed against the waste in the Pentagon, noting how Apple churns out new products so quickly while it takes up to 20 years to develop a new weapons system. He opined that $500 billion per year could be saved if the government is modernized and said our military posture needs to be changed, pointing out how the U.S. still has bases in Germany when there’s no more Soviet Union.
Huntsman warned of the U.S. heading down the path of Greece, Italy, and Japan because of debt, and agreed with Gingrich on changing our military posture around the world. In an impressive display of knowledge, he said there are 700 military installations in 60 countries, including 50,000 troops in 20 installations in Germany. He said that more resources need to go to the Asia-Pacific theater where three-fourths of our trade comes from.
The final topic was China, and Huntsman dominated. Gingrich readily admitted that Huntsman knows “far more than me about China.” Huntsman said the U.S.-Chinese relationship will define the century and that “we’re the best short-term tactical thinkers,” but the Chinese are the best “long-term strategic thinkers.” He mentioned the upcoming reshuffling of the Chinese leadership, saying that it will be the biggest change since 1949 and will bring in a new generation of nationalistic leaders who believe that China’s “time has arrived.”
Huntsman also struck a note of optimism. He said that China’s economic growth is slowing, and in the future the U.S. will be a more attractive place to invest in. He predicted that China’s government will face increasing internal challenges as there are 500 million Internet users and 80 million bloggers. He pointed out that bloggers are now able to criticize the government and call for freedom when they would have been jailed for it only a few years ago.
Gingrich said that the relationship between the American and Chinese people is more important than the relationship between the governments, and that the U.S. must challenge the authoritarianism of the Chinese government. He mentioned a study that found that South Carolina and Alabama will be less expensive to manufacture in than China by 2015. He said the U.S. must focus more on naval and air power in order to compete with China, as well as focus on threats from EMP, cyber, and space technology. Gingrich feels it is essential that the American education system encourages skills in math and science.
Overall, it was an impressive display from two knowledgeable candidates and both gained from the event.