How can a candidate for POTUS be so ignorant about foreign affairs?

I am super cranky about the presidential primaries.


As a teacher of international studies, I know that foreign affairs are really important.   Our relations with other countries shape our economy and our national security.   Our sons and daughters can be sent to war, terrorists can shoot up our buildings, pandemic diseases can enter our borders.  How we handle crises around the world is literally life and death for American citizens.

Foreign affairs REALLY MATTER.

And yet for almost all the people running for President of the US, foreign affairs don't seem to matter much at all.   Ben Carson can't tell the difference between a terrorist group and an appetizer.   Ted Cruz's entire foreign policy is "make the sand glow."  Donald Trump thinks that his animal magnetism will convince the Mexicans to build a wall (well, if he's elected, they might have stem the torrents of people moving to Mexico to avoid a Trump Administration.)

The Democrats aren't much better.   O'Malley, who has left the race, had no foreign policy experience and said almost nothing about Syria, Russia, Iraq or Afghanistan.   Sanders, who is an amiable peacenik, has said that the US should take no action without the UN.  And he's already ruled out any military conflict with Russia.  (Nice work, Bern.  You gonna give Putin the keys to Georgia, or can I just leave them on the table?).   He has very few specifics about policy, and despite 25 years in the Senate, a very weak knowledge of politics and economics outside the US.  Isolationism just isn't a viable foreign policy, but that's what he's advocating.

The only candidate who knows Syria from a hole in the ground is Hillary Clinton.   As First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State, she has travelled the world and learned about global politics firsthand.   She can make subtle distinctions rather than using military force as a blunt instrument (as Cruz would) or eschewing it altogether (as Sanders would).   Has she always made the right call?  No.  Her vote for the war in Iraq was ill-considered.  But she has been making calls, and lots of them.  No other candidate in the race can say that.  

The world is becoming increasingly complex.   The international system is breaking down.  Russia's more and more aggressive.  The EU is falling apart.  Syria's such a hot mess there are no answers in sight.   Now is not the time to rely on somebody being a good guy, or to hope that if he's elected, he'll have good advisors. (That was the Bush Administration strategy...and his advisors told him "Iraq can be the Switzerland of the Middle East."   That didn't go well.)  I think that if we are to avoid a long, grinding multilateral war, we are going to need somebody who can dodge and weave and make well-informed judgements on the turn of a dime.

There's lots not to like about Hillary.  She's in bed with Wall Street, she's part of a dynasty, she's been in Washington a long time.   But that's the point: she's been in foreign policy circles a long time.  And right now, that's what we need most.  Experience.