For Americans who can't see Russia from their porch, pocketbook issues and social controversies are much more familiar than the ins-and-outs of foreign policy. That's why this primer exists. Of course, unlike most such guides, it's not written for idiots. Just by (elected) idiots.
From Afghanistan to Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, here's what you need to know ahead of this evening's foreign policy-oriented presidential debate…
Continents: How Do They Work?
The administration's response to the embassy attack in Benghazi, Libya is expected to dominate discussion in at least one segment of tonight's discussion. But what is Libya? Is it part of the female anatomy only Todd Akin knows about? A European principality?
Per Michele Bachmann, we know it's not a country in north Africa, "Now with the president, he put us in Libya. He is now putting us in Africa. We already were stretched too thin, and he put our special operations forces in Africa," she said during a GOP debate.
The Good Korea Versus the Bad Korea
Nearly 60 years after the ceasefire, it's so hard to remember which is which! One is a close U.S. ally, the other an Orwellian theme park where the concession stands sell only tears and the nightly fireworks display is a rocket launch in to the Sea of Japan. Foreign policy maven Sarah Palin explains America's position, "…obviously we've gotta stand with our North Korean allies."
See how complicated geopolitics can be? Turns out, North Korea is the one in the south.
Cuba: Radical Muslim Communists?
Late last week came news that Cuba's Fidel Castro had suffered a stroke. Our embargo worked! Success! But what if a greater danger than a 86-year-old bearded man lurked on Cuban shores?
"Hezbollah has been potentially looking at wanting a part of missile sites in Iran," [Michele Bachmann] said, citing earlier her position on the House Intelligence Committee. "So of course when you're 90 miles offshore from Florida, you don't want to entertain the prospect of hosting bases or sites where Hezbollah can have training camps or perhaps have missile sites or weapons sites in Cuba. This would be foolish."
Cuba, Lebanon. Florida, Israel. Potatoes, Potahtoes.
Central Asian republics serves as an important conduit for NATO supplies headed for Afghanistan. Unfortunately, this means American presidents must be prepared to answer gotcha questions about these countries. Herman Cain, for one, would not stand for it…
"I'm ready for the 'gotcha' questions and they're already starting to come. And when they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I'm going to say, you know, I don't know."
For anyone who might be briefing the candidates today: the president of Uzbekistan is Islam Karimov, which sounds more than vaguely suspicious.
A Nu-cular China
A commitment to nuclear proliferation was one of Barack Obama's major foreign policy priorities. Whether his policy has borne fruit when it comes to Iran will be a topic of hot debate, but it's had one unqualified success: the China that lives inside Herman Cain's mind is nuclear weapon-free…
"Yes, they're a military threat. They've indicated that they're trying to develop nuclear capability and they want to develop more aircraft carriers like we have. So yes, we have to consider them a military threat."
Not that should make us complacent. What they lack in nuclear weapons, they more than make up for in satellite-killing lasers, per Bachmann…
"I'm not sharing something I shouldn't, but China has blinded United States satellites with their lasers."
This is not only an important point, it's almost a factual statement! All you have to do is replace China with "Bachmann," the United States with "everyone" and their lasers with "her stupid" and you've got a thought that'd be endorsed by the Council on Foreign Relations.
The Soviet Threat
Though Mitt Romney has not be a party to cutting-edge Republican foreign policy thinking, his campaign has made its own contributions to the Idiot's Guide. On at least three occasions, a member of the of the Romney camp has referred to the threat posed by the Soviet Union.
It's not the great power the Obama administration has refused to face down. When's the last time we heard Hillary Clinton issue a statement regarding the Ottoman Empire?
Taking a Maldive
Nor is Obama immune to unexpected foreign policy pronouncements. During a speech at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, Obama attempted to call the disputed Falklands Islands by their Spanish name, the Malvinas. He missed by about 8,000 miles, landing in the Maldives.
Not that we should worry about such flubs from either candidate. In 2000, we elected a guy who confused Slovenia with Slovakia and nothing terrible awful happened on the foreign policy front, right?
Tags: Barack Obama, Debates, Foreign Policy, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney