Herman Cain Celebrates His Foreign Policy Ignorance

Apparently, Herman Cain considers it a good thing that he doesn’t know much about foreign policy:

Former businessman turned presidential frontrunner Herman Cain continued his attempts to calm voters concerns over his lack of foreign policy experience during a campaign stop here Wednesday night.

“Relative to foreign policy, I don’t need to know the details of every one of the issues we face.

“We’ve got plenty of experts who can fill in the details,” Cain said at dinner held by the Nueces County Republican Women.

The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO told the 900 supporters in attendance that the key to dealing with issues abroad is to develop a clear foreign-policy philosophy, a line he often has repeated on the trail.

That philosophy: clarify who the United States’- friends and enemies are – something Cain says President Obama has failed to do.

Cain expanded, such as it is, on this idea in a recent appearance on Sean Hannity’s show:

I challenge anybody to say I wouldn’t know how to approach foreign policy — because unlike some of the other people, I at least have a foreign policy philosophy, which is an extension of the Reagan philosophy, Peace Through Strength. And my philosophy is Peace Through Strength and Clarity.

I believe that we need to clarify who our friends are. We need to clarify who our enemies are. So we can stop giving money to our enemies. And we can tell the world who our friends are that we are going to stand with like the country of Israel. All of the details for each individual situation we’ve got plenty of experts. But what a leader must do is be able to state some fundamental principles and a fundamental philosophy, listen to the inputs, and then make judgments.

As Conor Freidersdorf notes, a “foreign policy philosophy” of this type is really nothing more than utter nonsense:

Why is this nonsense? Every presidential candidate believes in “Peace Through Strength.” Don’t believe me? Try to find one who disagrees! Ron Paul, the biggest outlier in the GOP field, agrees that the United States should aspire to peace and maintain a strong national defense. What Cain tacks on to that vague, effectively meaningless “fundamental philosophy” is the notion that we should divide the world into “friends” and “enemies,” never explaining why he thinks a failure to do so is the source of our foreign policy woes, or what such “clarity” would achieve.

This is folly. In almost every instance, our relationship with a foreign country is a lot more complicated than “friend” or “enemy.” Affixing to each a reductive label is untenable for all sorts of reasons.

In the real world, this is true. In the simplistic world in which Herman Cain and many of the people he appeals to, its an entirely foreign concept. In that world, there really are only two categories “friends” and “enemies.” Or, in the immortal words of George W. Bush, “Either you’re with us, or you’re with the terrorists.” In that world, the simplistic foreign policy vision of the Herman Cain’s of the world (and he’s not alone in this, just check out what Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum have to say about this topic on a given day) is exactly what the audience wants to hear. It’s also the same kind of dangerous cluelessness that Herman Cain has demonstrated on this topic from the start of the Presidential campaign.

But don’t worry, folks, Herman Cain is boning up on foreign affairs, or something:

Almost every day, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is handed a one-page briefing from his chief foreign policy adviser on news from around the world.

It’s one of several things his campaign says the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, who has never held elective office before, is now doing to bone up on foreign policy — especially as he faces a big test in November at a GOP debate on national security issues.

“He’s really getting up to speed a lot more so than people give him credit for,” J.D. Gordon, Cain’s foreign policy and national security adviser who prepares the briefings, said in an interview with The Daily Caller on Monday….

Gordon says Cain has been receiving counsel from people well known in the foreign policy community. While Gordon won’t say who Cain talks with, Cain has admitted he admires people like former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton.

Other steps Cain has taken to educate himself about foreign policy, Gordon said, include his visit to Israel in August “to learn the facts on the ground.”

“He met with the deputy prime minister and the mayor of Jerusalem,” Gordon said.

As Daniel Drezner says, it’s the “almost every day” part that causes one to crack up. This is what passes for a serious Presidential campaign these days? This is who Republican voters are saying at the moment they want to be their nominee? It’s absurd, really.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CB says:

    im a foreign policy junkie, so i admit my bias, but it horrifies me that anyone can listen to these statements and still give this guy their support. the one area that a president has the power to impact, and cain is proud to be ignorant. and this man leads the polls. again, horrifying.

  2. mantis says:

    Perhaps pizza man can detail exactly which countries he considers to be our enemies. Maybe a big map on his website? The “enemies” can be labeled with skulls and crossbones.

  3. alanstorm says:

    We’re still waiting for Barry O to develop a coherent foreign policy (aside from the general rules of Bow to foreign leaders, Alienate allies, Appease opponents and Send troops where we have no vital interests), and you’re worried about someone who has never had to have a foreign policy and has a year or so to develop one?

    “…but it horrifies me that anyone can listen to these statements and still give this guy their support.”

    It horrifies me that anyone can listen to anything Barry O says and still support him. I am still waiting for an example of his supposed “brilliance”. It appears that that is and always was wishful thinking on the part of the left.

  4. This is pretty stunning (although consistent with previous statements).

    I would sincerely be interested in what supporters think.

  5. Console says:

    @alanstorm:

    How about that time he killed bin laden… or got us out of Iraq… or helped depose the ruler responsible for the pan-am bombings. Killed some somali pirates, Hell, we even got those hikers back from Iran

    Foreign policy, especially in comparison to the past few presidents has been Obama’s strong point. You can argue with the scope of the mission but for the first time in a long time, you can’t argue with the competence. Well you can, but you’d be an ignorant dumbass.

  6. legion says:

    Ever since GW, in Bizarro Republican World, it’s a moral failing to _be_ well-educated, but it’s OK to claim you have well-educated people _advising_ you.

  7. alanstorm says:

    Console, your examples are pathetic.

    1) He got Bin Laden. So? If it was ever released that he had him located and he didn’t do anything about it, what do you imagine the response would be? Taking action because he had no choice isn’t a very good example.

    2) So he followed GWB’s course on Iraq, but sped it up a bit. Big deal. The test is, what happens afterward? Since he was apparently too busy to get involved with any negotiations re: some troops remaining as a stabilizer, they’re all leaving – in 2 months. Ask anyone who knows logistics about the wisdom of that.

    3) Qaddffi was contained. He had been on his best behavior since the Iraq invasion, and had repudiated his nuclear ambitions. We were not in a state of war with Libya. The new government appears to be leaning in a Islamist direction. Are you sure you want to claim this one?

    4) Somali pirates are a foreign policy issue? I was not aware that we had an embassy with the pirates.

    5) Yes we apaid a ransom and got some idiot hikers back. Since they have done nothing but bad-mouth the US since they got back, i’d be just as happy returning them.

    BTW, all your examples are violent ones, except #5. I thought that only those cowboy conservatives thought that way…

    “Foreign policy, especially in comparison to the past few presidents has been Obama’s strong point. You can argue with the scope of the mission but for the first time in a long time, you can’t argue with the competence. Well you can, but you’d be an ignorant dumbass.”

    You are deluded. If that’s the way you see it, one can only conclude that you are a simplistic, one-dimensional observer.

  8. alanstorm says:

    Console, upon further reflection, all your examples are simply that – isolated events, which do not individually make a foreign policy. If you take them as a set, then we have a unifying thread, which is violent action, in support of nebulous goals. Is that what you characterize as a competent foreign policy – the liberal use of violence to accomplish our aims?

    You must be one of those evil neo-cons.

  9. mantis says:

    It horrifies me that anyone can listen to anything Barry O says and still support him. I am still waiting for an example of his supposed “brilliance”. It appears that that is and always was wishful thinking on the part of the left.

    Stupid people often have a hard time recognizing intelligence.

  10. @alanstorm:

    4) Somali pirates are a foreign policy issue? I was not aware that we had an embassy with the pirates.

    By that logic, any policies dealing Cuba, Iran, or North Korea aren’t foreign policies , either, as we do have embassies in those places either.

  11. Rob in CT says:

    Thanks for the posts from an alternate reality, alanstorm.

    It’s almost like you aren’t engaging reality, but rather following a playbook. A Democratic President is in office. Therefore, he must be an appeasing weakling! Even if he’s obviously nothing of the sort.

    He’s bombed the shit out of Pakistan (and Yemen) with drones, ordered the hit on OBL, questionably whacked a US citizen in Yemen, got us into Libya (also highly questionable, as far as I’m concerned) at the behest of our allies (Brits, French)…

    There is nothing in this record that supports a charge of appeasement.

    The argument for alienation of allies rests solely on a disagreement with the Israelis over settlement construction. Much like the last US President to try that (Bush the Elder), he got his ass handed to him on that. I, for one, agreed with Papa Bush and Obama on this issue, largely because I think settlement construction is counter-productive to the best interests of both the Israelis and the USA. The vast majority of Congresscritters disagreed, and so Bush I and Obama both lost on the issue. From where I sit, Bibi Netanyahu went out of his way to be confrontational. Add to that various GOP congressmen who went over to Israel to assure him that Obama wouldn’t get his way and nudge-nudge wink-wink we’ll win power back soon anyway so just stonewall. Partisan politics stops at the border, oh wait not when there is a D President in power.

    Anyway, a spat with Israel is apparently a horrid alienation of a client state, um, ally, whereas the Bush Administration’s treatment of France, Germany and anyone else who wouldn’t follow us into Iraq was… what exactly? Strengthening our alliances? Bullshit.

    Then, when Obama agrees to help the Brits and French (you know, ALLIES) in Libya and the Right was torn between “no interests there!” (true) and “he took too long to go in!” (lol).

    You can argue that O has been too interventionist – I have argued just that (Barack Obama, neocon). I don’t like it, anymore than I like it when Neocons run around trying to remake the world. Liberal interventionists are essentially Neocons who like the UN. It sucks, but those two groups are pretty much the only game in town (unless Ron Paul were to be elected POTUS).

    You can argue that O should’ve known better than to challenge Right-wing Israeli settlement policy, because he wasn’t going to win. I agree if that’s the charge, though I find that incredibly depressing.

    But you don’t argue those things. You argue about fantasies and irrelevant BS (bowing! hahaha). Typical.

  12. sam says:

    @alanstorm:

    Well, you’ve told us what a coherent foreign policy is not, in your estimation. Could you tell us what you think a coherent foreign policy would be? What contours it would have? We’d all be appreciative, I know. It’s difficult to evaluate your criticisms of Obama’s actions without knowing the yardstick you’re employing. Could you supply that for us?

  13. Murray says:

    Celebrating ones ignorance is a requirement to apply for a job as contributor at Fox News.

  14. EddieInCA (currently in GA) says:

    @alanstorm:

    We’re still waiting for Barry O to develop a coherent foreign policy (aside from the general rules of Bow to foreign leaders, Alienate allies, Appease opponents and Send troops where we have no vital interests), and you’re worried about someone who has never had to have a foreign policy and has a year or so to develop one?

    1. Bin Laden disagrees with you.
    2. Ghadaffi disagrees with you.
    3. The leadership of Al-Queda disagreees with you.
    4. Al-Alawaki disagrees with you.
    5. The citizens of Libya disagree with you.
    6. The French, British, Germans and NATO disagree with you.
    7. Most importantly, the American people disagree with you.

  15. CB says:

    @alanstorm:

    You are deluded. If that’s the way you see it, one can only conclude that you are a simplistic, one-dimensional observer.

    you could open up a megaplex with that kind of projection

  16. Curtis says:

    Of all the people cited here, I think I agree with Conor the most. The first thing that I look for in a presidential candidate is who do I think has the temperament to handle foreign policy. It is just a fact that this is where the president has the most sway. I don’t care if Cain or Obama or whomever you want to talk about knows off-hand who the president of Uzbekistan is, but at the same time, I care a great deal that they have thought about our strategic interests in central Asia and can speak to it. Obama didn’t have much foreign policy experience when he ran, but he could speak clearly about every foreign policy issue facing the country.

    And I have not seen anything on foreign policy that would make me comfortable except for from Huntsman. Most just seem to be against whatever Obama has done. Romney has been most disappointing on this score for me, just throwing his lot in with the neo-cons. Huntsman would be the best choice, I think, but that would require living in some alternate universe than this one.

  17. @Curtis:

    I don’t care if Cain or Obama or whomever you want to talk about knows off-hand who the president of Uzbekistan is, but at the same time, I care a great deal that they have thought about our strategic interests in central Asia and can speak to it.

    Exactly.

  18. Tsar Nicholas says:

    At the risk of beating a dead horse the disconnect between Cain’s staggering ignorance of foreign policies and his popularity with material segments of the GOP primary base is a function of the peculiar demographics of the GOP primary base. We’re talking about a very naive, extremely cocooned set of people. They don’t get out much. Literally. They have insular views of the world. Their own worlds tend to revolve around their churches. The China-Taiwan issue is not a hot topic in Protestant churches, nor is the ultimate fate of Afghanistan. When groups of socially-conservative housewives sit around their coffee klatsches they don’t discuss India’s and Pakistan’s conflict over Kashmir.

    Cain appeals to these people for the simple reason that they’re simple. The fact he has no experience and no aptitude from their standpoint is a positive.

    Lastly, in the final analysis, as the primary season moves to the higher population states, the ignorant and irrational segments of the GOP primary electorate will be drowned out by the larger group of savvy and sentient businessmen and businesswomen who vote Republican and who don’t spend their time listening to talk radio. Cain will wind up as a footnote. Fortunately.

  19. sam says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Cain will wind up as a footnote. Fortunately.

    You hope.

  20. sam says:

    @Curtis:

    Romney has been most disappointing on this score for me, just throwing his lot in with the neo-cons.

    Well, just wait a minute.

  21. WR says:

    @alanstorm: “Yes we apaid a ransom and got some idiot hikers back. Since they have done nothing but bad-mouth the US since they got back, i’d be just as happy returning them.”

    So you believe that any American who doesn’t speak of this country with what you decide is proper respect should be tortured in a foreign prison for decades? What a great American you are. Oh, wait, I mean what a typical Republican you are.

  22. anjin-san says:

    Herman Cain Celebrates His Foreign Policy Ignorance

    And it seems more Republicans want to join the celebration every day.

  23. Anne says:

    Cain’s staggering ignorance of foreign policy is just one of his problems. His callous remarks blaming the unemployed for their plight and his characterizing of the OWS protesters as un-American display lack of empathy as well. He and other blacks (including myself) are beneficiaries of the CIvil Rights movement which was a full-scale protest against the Jim Crow system of institutionalized racial injustice. In addition, protest against problems is very much a part of the American tradition. His remark about Jesus Christ as a conservative whom liberals executed is another of his low blows. I noticed that he is a flip-flopper in the tradition of Mitt Romney, any time his corporate masters object to something he’s said, even when it make sense (the issue of abortion), I also find his comments to the effect that Democratic-voting blacks are “brainwashed” exceedingly offensive, and a 2006 radio ad has surfaced in which he is trying to persuade blacks to vote Republican. It’s a horrible ad because it emphasizes the worst stereotypes about blacks. The Bush administration and the RNC denounced it, which is a tribute to just how atrocious it was.