The Current Discussion: Does it worry you that Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee talks about issues like gun rights and abortion and teaching "creationism" in school, but has no experience in foreign policy? What does her selection say to people in other countries about how U.S. politics works?
By Chuck McLean
The selection of another incurious, ill-schooled politician with no foreign policy judgment and a simplistic "the military can solve everything" view of foreign policy will continue the dramatic slide of the U.S.'s global influence. It will also dig us much deeper into a foreign policy hole that has already brought us to an international situation more dangerous than the darkest days of the Cold War.
PostGlobal's Global Power Barometer (I'm one of the editors) measures how well the key powers of the world, and by extension their leaders, are exercising their power to achieve their own desired ends. It tells you clearly who's winning and losing on the world power stage. The GPB's "4-week View" makes it obvious how far the U.S. has fallen far behind Russia, China, Iran and even Israel and the Islamists in achieving its global goals.
As we've watched world reaction to the Bush administration over the years, the people and leaders of the world are not as much interested in "experience" per se as they are two critical human traits: 1) curiosity about the world, and, 2) a knowledge of the history and cultures of their nations. Governor Palin has neither and that's downright dangerous.
The Governor, who obtained her first passport less than two years ago, has traveled outside the U.S. only once, to visit Alaska National Guardsmen stationed in Germany and Kuwait. She claimed a visit to Ireland, but the Irish quickly pointed out that a refueling stop in which you don't leave the airport is not a "visit." In fact, she has never even visited Alaska's important next-door neighbor, Canada.
Consistent with a complete lack of curiosity about the world around her, Governor Palin has never had any formal education in history (of the U.S. or the world,) let alone any experience with global culture or politics that might serve as a substitute for formal education.
Beyond what this says to the people of the world (which is that a VP Palin simply wouldn't care), we've just experienced eight years of the costly errors of a President without any curiosity or understanding of how foreign lands will react to U.S. actions. Iraq is a prime example. Even a cursory knowledge of culture and the region would have suggested the outcome of an Iraq invasion (Bush 41's great knowledge and understanding of history and culture kept him out of Baghdad.)
In the current crisis with Russia, an understanding of Russian culture, history and 20th-century experience (and, of course, the right judgment to apply the lessons of that history) would have avoided creating the situation in which Russia had little choice but to draw the line at South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The U.S. has a history as long as a blink of an eye in comparison to much of the rest of the world, so it may be understandable that we have little interest in world history. U.S. citizens are some of the least traveled among developed countries, so that may explain our lack of knowledge of other cultures. But in order just to protect ourselves and avoid mistakes that strengthen our enemies and weaken the U.S., we need leaders who are curious about the world, its history and its cultures. The nomination of Sarah Palin sends exactly the wrong message to the world and guarantees four more years of foreign policy and military mistakes in a world far more dangerous than it was eight years ago.
Chuck McLean is director of the Denver Research Group, which produces PostGlobal's Global Power Barometer.
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