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Time, Place, and Manner

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Andrew Jackson Would Have Spared America's Enemies

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The South Carolina GOP primary debate had so many dumb moments that it's hard to really pin down the dumbest.

PAUL: My — my — my point is, if another country does to us what we do others, we're not going to like it very much. So I would say that maybe we ought to consider a golden rule in — in foreign policy. Don't do to other nations…


Oh, right, booing the Golden Rule. That was definitely the dumbest. And what exactly was Ron Paul saying we shouldn't do to others? We shouldn't violate the sovereignty of other nations. Doesn't that sound like a policy position that's extremely population in South Carolina? You know, States Rights.

But enough of that, on to another particularly asinine moment:

BAIER: Speaker Gingrich? If you received actionable intelligence about the location of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar inside Pakistan would you authorize a unilateral operation, much like the one that killed bin Laden, with or without the Pakistani government knowing, even if the consequence was an end to all U.S.-Pakistani cooperation?

GINGRICH: [Omitting his response to Ron Paul.] We're in South Carolina. South Carolina in the Revolutionary War had a young 13-year-old named Andrew Jackson. He was sabred by a British officer and wore a scar his whole life. Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear-cut idea about America's enemies: Kill them.


First, Gingrich is correct that Andrew Jackson fought in the Revolution as a thirteen year old. That makes him a Found Father, just like John Quincy Adams!

Jackson's scars didn't come from battle though. He was captured in the Battle of Stono Ferry, and while a prisoner of war he refused to shine the boots of Major Coffin. In response, Coffin slashed at him with his saber, cutting Jackson's hand and head. The scars aren't the important part of the story though. The important part is that Jackson was a prisoner of war. You can bet that he had some pretty strong feelings about what one should to do their enemies after the British didn't kill him.

Or, maybe he did think America should kill her enemies, and the British were just stupid for not having the good sense to implement the same policy. If only there were some direct evidence, like a situation where Jackson had the chance to kill the enemies of America, but decided not to do it.

Oh right, the War of 1812. Just to set the stage, it's January 1815, the British have kidnapped Americans, forced them into military service, they have invaded America, attacked us on our own soil, burned the White House and the Capitol and killed more people than died in the September 11 attacks. Also, they hate us for our freedom. And, not just in a puffed up rhetorical sense, at this point in history the British really do hate us for being free.

Jackson marches his army down to the Gulf of Mexico and meets the British at the Battle of New Orleans. Though terribly outnumbered, Jackson pulls off what is widely considered one of the greatest land battle victories in American history. Major General Andrew Jackson captured more than 400 British soldiers in the battle. His forces killed fewer than 300. A great battle for which Jackson would long be remembered, and he killed fewer of America's enemies than he spared.

With the Treaty of Ghent (which had already been signed, though word had not yet reached Jackson by the time of the battle), the captured British soldiers were let go. That's right, following the most devastating attack on American soil ever, including the 9/11 attacks, we not only preferred to capture the enemy than to kill them, but also set them free once the war was over.

Andrew Jackson did have a pretty clear-cut idea about America's enemies: Killing them is the option of last resort.


Idiotic thoughts about American military strategy weren't confined to Gingrich. Take a look at Santorum's overall plan for how America should defend herself:

SANTORUM: The right course for America is to recognize we're under attack. We're under attack by people, whether they're Al Qaida or other radical violent jihadists around the world, and we're going to have to take action around the world to protect ourselves.

And hopefully we can do it as we did with Osama bin Laden, as opposed to going to war as we had to do in — in the case of — of Iraq. The right way, in my view, is — to keep us from having to go to those wars is to have a military so strong that no one would ever think of testing it. That's the kind of military we have to have, and we have to pursue our interests around the world.

Covert ninja assassin missions rather than full scale invasions, that's a pretty decent idea. But a military so strong no one would ever think of testing it? We have that already. We've had that since the Cold War. There is no nation that could survive the full force of the American military.

You know what a military that strong does though? It doesn't deter attacks. ...Well, it does deter many, as per Russia. But it also provokes attacks. It makes people worried that you're not going to be content just governing yourself and that you'll start imposing your will around the world. Obviously Santorum has never played Settlers of Catan or Risk. The most powerful player is always a target because they pose a risk to everyone else. Anyone who is going to be deterred by military might has already been deterred. Strengthening our military would now only inspire more attacks from the undeterrable. Also, it's really expensive, and yadda yadda economy yadda yadda deficit.


One final thing, a bit of a nonsequitur, but worth throwing in anyways:

GINGRICH: Well, this is typical of what both Senator Santorum and I have complained about with Governor Romney's super PAC, over which he apparently has no influence, which makes you wonder how much influence he'd have if he were president.

Romney, just like any candidate, is prohibited by law from influencing his super PAC. Of course, these legal barriers are largely illusory and easy enough to circumvent, but Gingrich in all sincerity criticized Romney for not violating campaign laws.

Romney also doesn't go around kicking in the doors of organized crime syndicates. Imagine how ineffective he'll be at RICO enforcement as President.

[Debate Transcript - still a better love story than Twilight]

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