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Walker the Generic Hawk

The L.A. Times reviews Scott Walker’s crash course in foreign policy. The article notes that there isn’t much to work with when trying to judge Walker’s views:

But Ryan, like others interviewed for this story, was reluctant to describe Walker’s worldview too specifically. The public record also shows little about the candidate’s views on most foreign policy issues. Until recently, when he began exploring a presidential run, Walker rarely expounded on immigration, Syria or the Iran nuclear deal.

If no one can describe Walker’s foreign policy views in much detail, that’s probably because they are unformed and very generic. He invokes Reagan every chance he gets, expresses hostility to diplomatic engagement, and is strongly opposed to ruling out any military options. Walker’s foreign policy thus far is what one would get by recycling a handful of hawkish talking points that have circulated on cable news or in the conservative media over the last few years. When it comes to being prepared to be president, Walker simply isn’t right now, but if his foreign policy statements are judged as a perfunctory box-checking exercise (which is how he seems to be treating them) he has been doing the bare minimum necessary.

When Walker has said anything on foreign policy subjects, the results have ranged from unimpressive to embarrassing, but his lack of a record could prove to be something of a blessing for his campaign. Unlike the senators in the race, Walker doesn’t have any past votes or statements on most contemporary foreign policy issues. There is relatively little that can be used against him early on. Many of the other governors or former governors may not have much more foreign policy experience than he does, but they have been more eager to opine about these issues and so have more specific positions to be criticized. Walker’s hawkishness is so generic that he can probably keep the party’s hawks satisfied without saying anything that would alarm less ideological voters. Once he starts to be pressed for more specific policy answers, that’s presumably when his inexperience and lack of knowledge are going to start tripping him up.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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