Daniel W. Drezner

This is Herman Cain’s Foreign Policy!

It took me a couple of hours of reading, cogitation, and regurgitation to critique Mitt Romney’s foreign policy positions. Clearly, I didn’t think it was perfect, or even all that good in many places. But, I had to assess it, mull over the content… you know, think. Now, I desperately want to be an equal ...

It took me a couple of hours of reading, cogitation, and regurgitation to critique Mitt Romney’s foreign policy positions. Clearly, I didn’t think it was perfect, or even all that good in many places. But, I had to assess it, mull over the content… you know, think.

Now, I desperately want to be an equal opportunity blogger, and at this point Herman Cain appears to be the co-frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination. Sure, I’ve had my fun with him in the past, and he has no shortage of foreign policy gaffes, but I figured that impromptu utterances during debates are only one part of a candidate’s overall policy vision. The thoughts that are written down, they imply some forethought. So I thought I’d go over to Cain’s campaign website and spend an equal amount of time to analyze his foreign policy thinking.  

I found…. a total of five paragraphs on "national security."  That’s it.  No white papers, fact sheets, bullet points, or list of advisors.  So you gotta think that these are going to be the most awesome and mind-blowing foreign policy paragraphs ever!!! 

Let’s jump right in: 

The primary duty of the President of the United States is to protect our people. In fact, it is the principal duty of a limited federal government. They must ensure that our military and all of our security agencies are strong and capable.

I’m with you so far, Mr. Cain — my only objection is your odd pronoun choice of "they." 

Unfortunately, national security has become far too politicized with our elected officials using the issue as a means to polarize our country as the “war hawks” and the “peace doves.” In response, the safety and morale of our brave men and women in uniform are often at risk for political gain. The judgment of our military experts on the ground is often underutilized in exchange for political purposes. National security isn’t about politics. It’s about defending America.

Let me just stop you right here and ask a few questions.  First, which elected officials are politicizing national security — could you be a bit more specific?  Second, just out of curiosity, is President Obama a "war hawk" or a peace dove"?  I mean, he’s pretty hard to categorize at this point, right — maybe a "peace hawk" or a "war dove"?  So if the commander-in-chief doesn’t fit your typology, is it at all useful?  Also, when you accuse others of politicizing national security issues, aren’t you, well, playing politics with national security? 

While diplomacy is a critical tool in solving the complex security issues we face, it must never compromise military might. Because we are such a free and prosperous people, we are the envy of the world. Many regimes seek to destroy us because they are threatened by our ideals, and they resent our prosperity. We must acknowledge the real and present danger that terrorist nations and organizations pose to our country’s future.

On this "many regimes seek to destroy us" business — can you give me more than one example?  I’m not talking about a lot of countries, all you need to provide is a few.   

Further, we must stand by our friends and we must not be fooled by our enemies. We should never be deceived by terrorists. They only have one objective, namely, to kill all of us. We must always remain vigilant in dealing with adversaries.

Now my head is starting to spin.  What if an enemy pretends to be a friend just to fool us — you know, like Lindsey Lohan in Mean Girls?  What do we do then?  How do we know you won’t be fooled?  Also, if you think terrorists only have one goal, how could they ever deceive us? 

We must support our military with the best training, equipment, technology and infrastructure necessary to keep them in a position to win. We must also provide our men and women in uniform, our veterans and their families with the benefits they deserve for their tremendous sacrifice. These heroes have served us. We must never forget to serve them.

This "pro-winning" national security policy is quite daring and provocative. 

So, that’s it.  Nothing on great power politics, nothing on foreign economic policy, nothing on our alliances, nothing on any particular region of the globe.  Nothing but a faint whiff of Carl Schmitt’s logic of friends and enemies.  This is actually worse than Rick Perry’s efforts, in that I don’t think it passes the Turing Test

Cain is busy promoting his new book, This Is Herman Cain!, so I checked it out to see if there was anything more illuminating on foreign policy.  And, indeed, there were two revealing facts.  On page 131, he states:

I can tell you what the Cain Doctrine would be:  if you mess with Israel, you’re messing with the United States of America.  Is that clear? 

Actually, that is clear.  Unfortunately, we get to the problem on p. 133: 

It’s difficult to say how the Cain Doctrine would apply to the Middle East’s other countries, especially those affected by the "Arab Spring," and to nations elsewhere in the world. 

OK, that’s totally unclear.  Could you provide any more guidance to your thinking? 

I’m not trying to escape the broader issues, but I think a President should first be briefed on classified intelligence about America’s relationships before offering opinions. 

The public doesn’t know the answers to those [foreign policy] questions, and neither do I.

Three thoughts.  First, you’re totally trying to escape the broader issues.  Second, if one accepted this logic at face value, then a president could never articulate anything useful on foreign policy in public, since the rest of us ain’t going to be briefed on these matters anytime soon. 

Third, I am 100% in agreement with Mr. Cain:  he hasn’t the faintest clue what to do when it comes to American foreign policy. 

Am I missing anything?  Seriously, is there anything Cain has written that displays anything resembling an understanding of how foreign policy works? 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and the author of Theories of International Politics and Zombies. His latest book is The Toddler in Chief. Twitter: @dandrezner

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