Foreign policy again will be the focus of the Republican presidential debate tonight. But the reckless talk of GOP hopefuls, especially Newt Gingrich, in the last debate is likely scaring the bejeezuz out of the rest of the world. Gingrich might be enjoying a bump in the polls right now, but his comments about using covert operations and then denying them makes him seem not only incoherent, but crazy, kind of like a Dr. Strangelove dealing with Iran’s mad mullahs.

I note:

The Republican debates might be targeted at a domestic audience, but the rest of the world doesn’t shut its ears. They offer other countries a window on the American psyche. And the picture that Gingrich et al. are painting would only confirm the stereotype of an ugly American willing to achieve his ends by any means necessary, long-term consequences be damned.

And America’s inglorious history of covert operations shows just how nasty these consequences can be. Nothing demonstrates this better than Iran itself…

Few would deny that covert operations can sometimes offer an alternative short of all-out war to deal with nettlesome situations that can’t be resolved diplomatically. But precisely because they involve morally ambiguous means and, often, serious trespasses on another nation’s sovereignty, they have to be deployed sparingly and responsibly – i.e., only when they offer the least bloody way of advancing a just cause.

Gingrich, however, sounds like a sociopath when he talks about them. He makes it seem like covert operations are just another tool in America’s foreign policy kit, to be pulled out whenever expedient. That makes America, not Iran, seem like the bigger threat to global stability.

Read the whole thing here.

Shikha Dalmia is a senior analyst at Reason Foundation and a columnist at The Daily.

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Shikha Dalmia

Shikha Dalmia is the senior analyst for the Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank promoting free markets. Dalmia is a columnist at Forbes and writes regularly for Reason magazine. She is the co-winner of the first 2009 Bastiat Prize for Online Journalism for her columns in Forbes and Reason.