A Dare for Herman Cain: Prove Your Foreign-Policy Chops

He insists America needs the clarity that comes with identifying for the world our friends and enemies. So why doesn't he make a list?

Herman Cain - AP Photo:Brian Ray - banner.jpg

In Sean Hannity's interview with Herman Cain, the Fox News host asks, with his signature slow-pitch softball style, whether the former CEO has the necessary foreign policy chops to be president.

Here is Cain's answer:

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.

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.

And I defy Cain to prove me wrong.

He says we need clarity?

I dare Cain to create an official campaign document that takes all the countries in the world and divides them into two columns: the ones that a President Cain would publicly label "friends," and the ones that he would publicly label "enemies" before completely cutting them off.

He won't do so, because he cannot defend such a list. He won't do so because the core foreign policy approach he's claiming as his own is naive nonsense that can't even survive the fleshing out of a campaign. The best move at this point is to again claim that he was just joking.

Image credit: Reuters

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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