And "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs". That's the line now being deployed against the valid critique of the current Republican orthodoxy by Ron Paul. But insults are not arguments. And they are a function of fear - not political fear, because Paul doesn't have a chance. I mean: intellectual fear. That a real debate about the future of conservatism after the Bush disaster might be gaining traction. A reader comments:

At the Republican debate, Rep. Paul tried to express what I consider to be a basic tenet of strategic thinking.  I don't think that Mr. Paul truly believes that  we caused 9/11, or that we "invited" it.  He is just pointing out that our actions have repercussions, and that recently, the Republican Party (and the nation generally) have refused to consider those repercussions when formulating foreign policy.

That the United States should: (i) consider how its actions will be interpreted by others;  (ii) predict what actions others are likely to take as a result; and (iii) adjust our actions accordingly is not an invitation to be attacked, but the most basic form of strategic analysis, familiar to every chess and World-of-Warcraft player the world over.

The most appalling moment of the debate for me was Mr. Guilani's reaction to Mr. Paul.  Rather than acknowledging the need for strategic thinking in our foreign policy, but then disagreeing with Mr. Paul's conclusions, Mr. Guilani chose a crass, politically-motivated, and mean-spirited sound-bite. Apparently to Mr. Guilani and the rest of the Republican hopefuls, trying to understand our enemies, how they view us, how they will interpret our actions, and how our actions should change as a result, is a sign of cowardice.

It is, of course, a sign of reason. But the Republican party has not been very keen on reason these past few years. What matters is faith in a leader and unremitting violence in accomplishing goals. Whatever else this is, it isn't conservatism as I have come to understand it.