Scarborough: The vapidity of America’s foreign policy debate

Joe Scarborough
Special to The Washington Post

Foreign policy stalwarts came out Tuesday night to honor Robert Gates at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Brent Scowcroft, John Warner and other titans gathered to celebrate the inaugural awarding of the CSIS’s Zbigniew Brzezinski Prize. While the evening’s events highlighted the debt the United States and the world owe Gates and Brzezinski (full disclosure: Brzezinski is the father of my “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski and an occasional guest on the show), the night’s festivities unintentionally illustrated to guests just how vapid the United States’ foreign policy debate has become over the past decade.

The 43rd president promised to end tyranny across the globe. He instead engaged in a tragic military overreach that will complicate U.S. policy for years. The 44th president has been so driven by his obsession to avoid the mistakes of his predecessor that he has summarized his grand geostrategic approach as “Don’t do stupid —.”

Though hard to believe, the current crop of candidates running for president may prove to be even worse than George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

One possible nominee has promised to bomb America’s enemies “until the sand glows.” Another proposed banning all Muslims from entering the United States. Another was stumped by editorial board questions that a Gates, Brzezinski or Scowcroft would have swatted away without breaking a sweat. And the other has been so reckless with America’s classified secrets that the State Department concluded that releasing some sent through her unsecured email server would cause grave damage to U.S. national security.

Any one of these four candidates could go a long way in narrowing their credibility gap with foreign policy leaders by following the advice of Brzezinski and putting Gates on their presidential ticket. Though it is unlikely the former defense secretary and CIA chief would reenter the world of Washington politics, the situation we face is grim. It would take the reemergence of a leader such as Robert Gates to signal to the world that America is ready once again to get serious about its indispensable role in the world.

Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, hosts the MSNBC show “Morning Joe.”