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Reason Foundation

"Everything We Do Has an Unintended Consequence"

Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson on Obama's Middle East speech, U.S. relations with Israel, and his recent PAC setback.

Mike Riggs
May 23, 2011

The GOP primary field continues to dwindle. Following in the departing footsteps of Fox News host Mike Huckabee and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who announced this weekend that he will not be running for president. Political commentators say Daniels' exit is good news for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, but could it also be good news for former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson? Associate Editor Mike Riggs spoke with Johnson on Friday about President Barack Obama's Middle East speech, what role the U.S. should play in the Arab Spring, Johnson's support for Israel, and the problem his PAC faces in Utah.

Reason: What did you think of President Obama's speech on Middle East policy?

Gary Johnson: It kind of scares me, the notion that we’re going to be injecting ourselves into other countries’ affairs when they’re not posing a threat to our security. I wouldn’t be telling Israel what to do. I have met with Netinyahu before, and I think that it’s wrong to think we have the solution to any country’s foreign problems. It would be analogous to foreign country telling us how to conduct our own affairs. We don’t want to hear that. We understand our problems, and I’d like to think we understand the best way to deal with those problems.

The notion that we’re playing a bigger and bigger role abroad sounds to me like more and more conflict, less of a chance to extricate ourselves from the entanglements we’re in.

Reason: What role, if any, should America be playing in the Arab uprisings? It seems like there’s a way to encourage democracy, but not at gunpoint.

Johnson: I just think everything we do has an unintended consequence. We take out Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Iraq was the check against Iran. Iran was more concerned with Iraq and Saddam Hussein than with any other country, and now all of a sudden, Iran—which I would argue is not a military threat to the U.S.—now we have to be vigilant of it. That is an unintended consequence. It plays out in everything we do. We pick winners and losers—who are the winners that we’re picking? Do they ultimately rear their heads and become more of a problem than the first problem we were addressing to begin with.

Reason: Jon Huntsman on Good Morning America [Friday] expressed some doubt about Afghanistan and what we should be doing there 10 years after we first arrived. You and Congressman Ron Paul have both said we should leave. Herman Cain has also questioned our purpose in staying. Are people wondering if now is the time for the GOP to come around to leaving Afghanistan?

Johnson: I think the majority of the party believes this. I think the majority of Americans believe this. Outside of believing it, it’s the right thing. Involvement in Afghanistan, I thought, was totally warranted. We were attacked, we attacked back, but after six months of being in Afghanistan, I thought we had pretty well effectively wiped out al Qaeda. And yet, there we are, 10 years later.

I’m outraged that we’re building roads, schools, and hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that we’re doing it with borrowed money from China that we’re paying interest on. I’m outraged.

(Interview continues below video, "Former NM Gov. Gary Johnson's Vision for a Truly Free America.")

Reason: Congressman Paul has said we should end financial aid to all of the Middle East, including Israel. What should the U.S. be doing for Israel? What are the risks of upending the status quo?

Gary Johnson: I’m opposed to any foreign aid, because we’re borrowing money from China, that we’re paying interest on, to give to other countries. So I’m opposed to foreign aid to all countries. But I think it’s important to distinguish between foreign aid and foreign alliances, or espousing that the military be cut by 43 percent. To do that, I think it’s important that military alliances play a part in that. The notion being that if we’re going to cut military spending, our allies need to pick up the slack.

To cut defense by that much and still maintain vigilance against terrorists worldwide—which I think is a serious threat that we should be vigilant against—we should remain a military ally of Israel into the future.

Reason: Your PAC recently ran into trouble in Utah. You think you’re going to have that cleared up pretty quickly?

Johnson: Well, I don’t know if it’s any trouble at all or very simply a missed deadline. I don’t think it’s a big issue at all. I haven’t even checked on it, to tell you the truth. I’ll do that.

Mike Riggs is Associate Editor

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