Palin’s ABC Interview: Flunking Foreign Policy

Republican  Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin gave her first unscripted interview yesterday to ABC’s Charlie Gibson. The major topic of questions was the Governor’s preparation for dealing with foreign and national security policy. Based on her public responses, she could scarcely have failed more miserably.

Palin’s responses were revealing in two ways. The first was that they displayed her virtually pristine lack of knowledge of foreign affairs and U.S.policy toward the world. She clearly has never heard of the Bush doctrine, which has been the guiding “principle” of U.S. policy since 2001 (she described it as Bush’s “worldview”: that would get you one or two points for a nice try on a ten-point scale in one of my classes). She blithely replied that the Russian invasion was totally unprovoked. Whether it as justified is one thing; that the Georgians did nothing to provoke the Russians is simply not true. She came out in favor on Georgian and Ukrainian membership in NATO, including acceptance of the commitment to defend them militarily if they were made members. She accepted the prospect of war with Russia arising from these acts as essentially no big deal. And here most of us thought the purpose of the Cold War was to avoid just that outcome.

In some ways, the more frghtening aspect of her performance was its embrace of neo-conservative doctrine about the world. This was particularly obvious in her bellicose remarks about encircling Russia with NATO and closely reflects similar attitudes expressed by John McCain. Most Americans have repudiated the neo-conservative creed which, among other things, provided the rationale for Iraq, raised the utopian goal of global democratization to a central place in U.S. policy, and has militarized much of America’s stance in the world. With the possible exception of the Likud faction in Israel, no one outside the United States endorses this world view. Four more years?

Demonstrating that the election campaign is about electing politicians and not debating public policy, the GOP has gone on the counteroffensive. Palin is qualified as commander-in-cchief because she commands the Alaska National Guard (although not when it is engaged in military operations), can see Russian soil from one of the Alaskan islands, has traveled overseas once, and knows something about energy policy (extrapolated to energy security). Joe Biden, on the other hand, has the skinny resume of being chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Quite a comparison.

One may choose to vote for McCain-Palin for a variety of reasons, but please do not insult our intelligence by saying that preparation for the role of head of state and commander-in-chief is among them, at least not in the case of Sarah Palin. She must not have taken a course in American Foreign Policy while she was getting her political science degree from the University of Idaho, or if she did, she must not have passed it.

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