Republicans and the Conan Doctrine

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Via Alex Massie, Dan Drezner surveys the interest of the Republican field in foreign affairs and comes away horrified:

During the 2008 US presidential election cycle, the respected journal Foreign Affairs invited the leading prsidential candidates from both parties to outline their views of world politics. All of them responded with essays that, one presumes, they at least read if did not write. This year, ahead of next year’s elections, Foreign Affairs has proffered the same invitation to the leading Republican aspirants. To date, they have all refused or not responded.

The problem here is simple: the tea party attitude toward foreign policy these days is about the same as Conan’s:

Mongol General: Conan! What is best in life? 

Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

Since the tea party apparently controls the GOP nomination, this is basically what every candidate has to say. No nuance will be tolerated. It’s pretty tiresome. But of course, even the dumbest of them knows that you really can’t say something like this in the pages of Foreign Affairs. So they’re best off punting. After all, if you stray too far from the Conan Doctrine, even accidentally, you’ll lose precious votes, but if you stick too close to it you’ll make a fool of yourself among Beltway elites that (no matter how much they deny it) really do matter to them. It’s a lose-lose proposition.

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