Commentary: The Diplomacy of Herman Cain

Murray, KY – The views expressed in this commentary are those of Dr. Brian Clardy and don't necessarily reflect the views of WKMS.

Murray State History Professor and Foreign Policy Analyst Dr. Brian Clardy takes a look at the diplomacy of Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.

On November 11th, Americans will take time off from their busy schedules to remember the many sacrifices by our men and women in uniform who have steadfastly defended freedom on the field of battle. Formerly titled, "Armistice Day," our country now celebrates Veterans Day to pay tribute to sailors, Marines, soldiers, and air personnel who are the centerpiece of protecting American vital interests. And in an era of continuous wars, and growing global instability, the use of the military option is essential to the practice and craft of diplomacy.

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has been noted (sometimes slammed) for his "9-9-9" Plan for tax reform, but what is least reported is his view of the use of armed force in the protection of the homeland. The claims that he raises on his campaign website are clear and lucid. He writes:

While diplomacy is a critical tool in solving the complex security issues we face, it must never compromise military might. Because we are such a free and prosperous people, we are the envy of the world. Many regimes seek to destroy us because they are threatened by our ideals, and they resent our prosperity. We must acknowledge the real and present danger that terrorist nations and organizations pose to our country's future.

Many of the claims that Cain raises are echoes of the musings of Presidents Reagan, Bush 41, Bush 43, and Obama. You could say that they are "par for the course." However, there are a number of questions that Cain must address in order to translate campaign rhetoric into a clear and coherent campaign strategy.

First, how would President Cain design a military spending plan that would add to American conventional and strategic stockpiles without breaking the proverbial bank? How would he appease fiscally prudent Senators like Kentucky's Senator Rand Paul that such spending is warranted in an era of budgetary constraints?

Secondly would President Cain utilize this new found "military might" in conjunction with American allies and with the collective security apparatchik already in place since the time of Vice President Alben Barkley? For instance, would President Cain consider holding joint exercises with our NATO allies in order to bolster American military credibility and place our adversaries on notice? How would he work with United Nations peacekeepers, given the fact that he seemingly dismissive of "diplomacy" as the sole viable option?

Third, would President Cain revert back to the "doctrine of pre-emptive war" that was heavily criticized by then candidate Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign? Could he convince Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield and the other key members of the Special Forces caucus that this option would be viable and necessary?

Fourth, how would President Cain balance the relationship between his civilian advisors and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in carrying out vital military missions and their overall political objectives? To what extent would he consult with key US Senators in the ratification of treaties and defense appropriations? How would he work cooperatively with the Congressional leadership, such as Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell in order to ensure the passage of any measure that he would propose towards those ends?

And finally, how would President Cain address the American people in a crisis situation that his methods are sound as troops from the 101st Airborne prepare to deploy into harm's way? Could he convincingly persuade the public that the use of military force would ensure the peace? What would be his exit strategy? Would his goals be clear and lucid? Could he assure victory in the field should it come to that?

Over the course of the Republican campaign for President, voters must raise these questions with Mr. Cain at every turn. And his advisors will have to make sure that they are ready to address them in a cogent fashion during the primaries, the general election, and should he be fortunate to assume the awesome responsibilities of the American Presidency.

Dr. Brian Clardy is an Assistant Professor of History and teaches 20th Century United States diplomatic history at Murray State University. He is also the host of Caf Jazz on Thursday nights.