Governors almost never come to the national stage with much foreign policy experience. But rarely has a vice presidential nominee generated so much concern abroad (or at home) as Sarah Palin, who only got her passport last year and probably couldn't finger Botswana on a map. Contrary to my liberal friends (and other bloggers on this site), I like Palin. Her views on evolution are abhorrent, sure. But she comes off as a regular person, not a seasoned pol, and I like that. But she needs to bone up on her foreign policy chops. Here is some advice.
Call for Comprehensive Plans. Americans and the media are dumb. When pressed on a complicated foreign policy issue (Should the U.S. recognize the sovereignty of Pakistan and suspend its commando raids of South Waziristan?), just say that the issue is complex, and there are no easy answers but you have a comprehensive plan that will resolve the issue and restore American greatness. Next question?
Correctly pronounce difficult-to-pronounce places. You can score a few foreign policy points and silence your critics by pronouncing Qatar "cutter" and Chechnya "chech-NYA". Do what Bush does: Include the phonetic spellings of foreign-sounding words and names in all your speeches.
Geography and Osmosis Are Not Correlated. Your being the governor of Alaska, sorry to say, does not make you a Kremlinologist. You have to understand Russia to understand foreign policy. By that I mean, make sure you know the history of U.S.-Russian relations, dating back to John Reed (and while you're at it, read his book, too).
Don't Try to be Thatcherite. Conservative women tend to be coolish, overly stern, and Jeane Kirkpatrick-like. Angela Merkel has charmed both at home and abroad by being herself, not trying to project this iron-woman image.
Read A Few Books. I know that time on the campaign trail is not exactly in abundance but you should read at least a few books or important articles on world affairs. Try George Kennan's "X article" in Foreign Affairs on containment or Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations." If you can make it through a whole book, don't make it Natan Sharansky's "The Case for Democracy."
Know Your Current Middle East Events. If you have to get one region right, learn about the Middle East. Unlike your running mate, know which states are majority Sunni and which are majority Shiite. Don't make the same mistake I made my first day on the job: I confused Syrian for Assyrian. There's a difference. Look it up.
Grab Some Good Foreign Policy Experts on the Right. Contrary to popular opinion, they do exist. Have a sit-down with my old boss, Richard Haass, of the Council on Foreign Relations. Or chat up Colin Powell, Brent Scowcroft, or Andrew Bacevich. I hear you are being briefed by Randy Scheunemann -- take everything he says, reverse it, and your worldview will be just fine.
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