Central America, Cyber-Security and Electromagnetic Pulse Attack Identified As Overlooked National Security Threats

By Susan Jones | November 23, 2011 | 6:51am EST

Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks as Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, listens during a Republican presidential debate in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CNSNews.com) - What national security issue do you worry about that nobody is asking about, the Republican presidential hopefuls were asked at the very end of Tuesday night's debate.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum -- the first to respond -- said he's concerned about the "spread of socialism" in Central and South America: "I'm very concerned about the militant socialists and the radical Islamists joining together, bonding together," Santorum said.

Rep. Ron Paul said he worries about U.S. "overreaction" leading the country into another war. He also said he worries about people failing to understand "who the Taliban is" and what motivates them: "Taliban doesn’t mean they want to come here and kill us. The Taliban means they want to kill us over there because all they want to do is get people who occupy their country out of their country, just like we would if anybody tried to occupy us."

Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry gestures as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney listen at a Republican presidential debate in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry expressed concern about "how we're going to deal with China," a topic that had already been discussed, he admitted: "I happen to think that Communist China is destined for the ash heap of history because they are not a country of virtues," Perry said. "When you have 35,000 forced abortions a day in that country; when you have the cybersecurity that the PLA has been involved with, those are great and — and major issues, both morally and security-wise that we’ve got to deal with now."

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney agreed with Perry that China is a concern. He also expressed concern about Iran becoming nuclear. Then he agreed with Santorum that Latin America isn't getting enough attention: "And we have, right now, Hezbollah, which is working throughout Latin America, in Venezuela, in Mexico, throughout Latin America, which poses a very significant and imminent threat to the United States of America."

Herman Cain said he's concerned about cyber security. "Having been a ballistics analyst and a computer scientist early in my career, cyber attacks: that’s something that we do not talk enough about, and I happen to believe that that is a national security area that we do need to be concerned about."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich listed "three great threats," including a weapon of mass destruction going off in an American city. "The second is an electromagnetic pulse attack which would literally destroy the country’s capacity to function," Gingrich said. "And the third, as Herman just said, is a cyber attack. All three of those are outside the current capacity of our system to deal with."

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaks at a Republican presidential debate in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Rep. Michele Bachmann chose Iraq as a significant national security issue. The U.S. "won the peace in Iraq," she said, adding that "now, President Obama is intentionally choosing to give that peace away. This is a significant issue because we’re taking the terrorist threat away from the Middle East, bringing it to the United States."

Bachmann also mentioned the terrorist threat posed by Al-Shabaab, Islamic militants operating in Somalia. "Al-Shabaab is real," Bachmannn said. "In my home state of Minnesota, we’ve just had two convictions of two women that are financing terror with Al-Shabaab. This threat, I believe, now is in the United States and now the threat has come home and that’s what we have to deal with."

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said America's biggest national security problem "is right here at home. And you can see it on every street corner. It’s called joblessness. It’s called lack of opportunity. It’s called debt, that has become a national security problem in this country. And it’s also called a trust deficit, a Congress that nobody believes in anymore, an executive branch that has no leadership, institutions of power that we no longer believe in.

“How can we have any effect on foreign policy abroad when we are so weak at home?” Huntsman asked. “We have no choice. We’ve got to get on our feet here domestically," he concluded, drawing applause from the audience.

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