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Foreign Policy Absurdities

Wednesday, 30 November, 2011

I’ve only just recently managed to watch the GOP presidential hopefuls duke it out over foreign policy / national security etc, and while I’m, unsurprisingly, hardly moved by their grasp of foreign affairs (save potentially for Jon Huntsman), I don’t exactly find myself outraged either. It may be that watching all 70 of the other primary debates has left me difficult to disappoint. Certainly, I find it frustrating that nearly all of the candidates for the presidency put forward by a major political party struggle to show some semblance of level-headed, informed analysis of current international issues; but, at the end of the day, I don’t have to pick one of them to represent my party. I would be much angrier if I was a Republican…

Were I a Republican, I would likely be inconsolable, instead of highly amused, once alerted to Hermain Cain’s Vision for Foreign Policy and National Security as I was earlier today by Seth Masket. I thank him for bringing attention to what is undoubtedly the crown jewel of Cain’s manifesto: the image illustrating the US’s strategic relationships (complete with Cain’s illuminating legend), which also doubles as a map of global Facebook connectivity. Firstly, and most evidently, I have no idea how Facebook and US global strategic relationships are connected and why, though apparently possible, they must be represented on the same map. This is absolutely baffling. I don’t think the Cain campaign could have made his presentation via this map look any more like absolute bullshit. I don’t exactly feel the need to go on about this.

If Hermain Cain’s grasp of US foreign policy is at all more sophisticated than the map would suggest, it certainly doesn’t come across in his brief paragraphs that follow. The labels his team have conjured up for each country listed are pointless products of what I’m sure were equally pointless brainstorming meetings. The open call for regime change in both Iran and Venezuela (not that he’s the only one to do so…) illustrates an entirely childish and ham-handed view of diplomacy. Equally, the clarion call that Pres. Obama has turned his back on our allies (i.e. the UK and Israel, I guess) and been soft on our “enemies” has been repeated by Rep. Bachmann at the podium as well as by Mitt Romney and really just represents, in my mind, a more then desperate grasp at some kind of fluidity of foreign policy thinking. Unfortunately, the world isn’t divided up so neatly into friends and foes, and deferring to Israel on every policy issue relating to the Middle East is not a strategy.

Lastly, I’ll say that in many ways, given the current global climate, I’m quite shocked that between two FP debates and 8 campaign websites..there hasn’t been an intelligible remark made relating to the European Union. Huntsman comes closest on his campaign website with a few references to the debt crisis… then descends into a bunch of predictable neo-conservative bollocks on NATO. Our economic situation hasn’t been this continually responsive to political developments in Europe in two decades, and the debt crisis aside I’m quite stunned that no serious candidate for president seems to consider the EU and its institutions to play a role in US foreign policy considerations. Even Mitt Romney’s 44 page white paper fails to enumerate any kind of plan for engagement with Europe. In fact, for most of the candidates, it would seem that utilizing our strategic relationship with Europe to achieve regime change in Libya is now proving an example of Obama’s lack of leadership.. simply because we didn’t do the whole thing by ourselves!

Anyway, poke around the candidates sites… I’m sad it’s taken me this long to see Cain’s facebook security map! I’ve learned my lesson.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sam Olsen permalink
    Thursday, 1 December, 2011 02:22

    Nice blog. Re: the GOP candidate (lack of) remarks on Europe, well I’m not surprised. No one knows what shape Europe is going to be in come Christmas let alone during the next term. I wouldn’t recommend nailing any colours to the EU mast just yet.
    Besides, I am completely of the opinion that the next century belongs to the Pacific. As the globe’s growth engine and most dynamic region, I assess that Europe is going to be pretty irrelevant on the international scene within only a few years. Not nice for Europeans, but neither is the huge drop in living standards they are going to feel. I’ve got a post about the UK’s relationship with the Pacific coming up soon if you’re interested.

  2. Thursday, 1 December, 2011 11:59

    Appreciate the comment! I definitely see your point, and perhaps if this was a more contextual shift of focus I would be less alarmed. Frankly, US politicians make very little, if any, effort to understand the EU, and in my opinion, to their own peril. The GOP candidates lack of focus on Europe, I think, demonstrates a lack of knowledge rather than a different set of priorities. You may be right about the next century belonging to Asia, and Europe may indeed be heading towards self-destruction…but the US’s economic/political ties with Europe remain incredibly strong. Even if the US is going to undertake a massive reorientation in the future, it won’t happen overnight and there will need to be at least some basic vision of how our engagement within NATO is going to work with EU institutions in the near term. Not to mention our vulnerability to the Eurozone troubles. Aside from talking up the “special relationship” with the UK I haven’t seen very much suggested, and I find it troubling. There are still some vital strategic questions that are entirely within the purview of the Atlantic alliance. I think that the Libya intervention was an example of that. Another example, unilateral action on Iran outside of consultation with European allies would be catastrophic…and we will have to allow for the way the EU makes those types of political decisions whether we like it or not. Anyway, would love to read the post on UK-Pacific relations — feel free to drop an email or whatever. Again, appreciate the comment.

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