Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sarah Palin Doesn't Know What She Doesn't Know - And She Could Care Less

It's becoming increasingly plain that John McCain's chosen running mate, Alaskan governor Sarah Palin is grossly unprepared to serve as America's vice president.

The Washington Post published this interesting assessment of Palin by Chuck McLean of the Denver Research Group that produces the Global Power Barometer:

"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.

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.

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.


Anonymous said...

I can't resist.....what makes the American politican so stupid? Or for that matter, why have we been putting up with stupidity in our leaders since the seventies. Included is Britain and Canada.

The Mound of Sound said...

A fascinating question Anon. Palin was obviously selected on two criteria - her youth and gender - and that's it. Had McCain wanted somebody qualified for the job, someone with character, knowledge and vital experience - he had plenty of choices. Instead he took her.

But why Bush, why McCain, why Harper? That's partly due to the way they rise to the top - through their party ranks. One's actual qualifications for the job are largely insignificant contrasted with other considerations. Sometimes everyone's last choice winds up the one getting the leadership nod. When a party's last choice or second-last choice is what's dished up to the public, what sort of person are they going to annoint head of state?

Sometimes people just go for the shiny object dangled in front of them.