While campaigning endlessly (and successfully!) in New Hampshire, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the media-christened "moderate" with the spectacularly interventionist foreign policy agenda, began floating the idea of "regime change" in Stalinist North Korea. "What do we do to try to foster that?" he mused on at least one occasion. This on top of Kasich's plans to go "massively" with a land war against ISIS, removing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria against Russia, for starters.
At last night's GOP presidential debate, CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Kasich a sensible follow-up question: "[T]he commander of American forces in South Korea said that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would use a weapon of mass destruction if he thought his regime was being threatened. You have said the United States should start examining a strategy of regime change in North Korea. Let's be clear. Are you talking about getting rid of Kim Jong Un?"
Note that Blitzer was calling both for clarity of position, and engagement with the concern that trying to topple the murderous millennial would provoke a nuclear war. Kasich's initial answer was a tautological beaut: "When you talk about regime change, Wolf, it means regime change. That's what it means." Thanks for clearing that up.
Ol' Hand-Paddles then quickly detoured into intercepting ships and aircraft, tightening sanctions, arming NoKo's neighbors, pressuring the Chinese and so forth, before cycling back and insisting now that "regime change" maybe doesn't have a plain English meaning after all:
[W]hen I say regime change, I don't have to talk exactly what that means. Look, I've been involved in national security for a long time; you don't have to spell everything out. But what I'm telling you is you look for any means you can to be able to solve that problem in North Korea, and in the meantime put the pressure on the Chinese….They are the key to being able to settle this situation.
Blitzer pressed on: "Would you risk war for a regime change?"
Kasich responded with perhaps the craziest line in a debate full of 'em:
Wolf, again, it would depend exactly what, you know, what was happening; what the situation was. But if there was an opportunity to remove the leader of North Korea and create stability? Because, I'll tell you, you keep kicking the can down the road we're going to face this sooner or later.
But in the meantime, I'm also aware of the fact that there's 10 million people living in Seoul, so you don't just run around making charges. I have put it on the table that I would love to see regime change in North Korea.
Now, perhaps the Chinese can actually accomplish that with this man who is now currently the leader, but the fact is we have to bring everything to bear. We have to be firm, and we've got to unite those people in that part of the world to stand firmly against North Korea, and make sure we have the ballistic missile technology to defend ourselves.
Set aside all the incoherence and self-contradiction here—the Chinese can maybe accomplish regime change in conjunction with North Korea's current leader?—and instead focus on that one bolded line. John Kasich is suggesting, after 15 years of chaos in the wake of U.S.-led regime changes around the globe, that this time when we decapitate the dictatorial government of a lousy country it will finally produce that long-lost unicorn of stability. Sorry, Lindsey Graham, there's your "batshit crazy."
Last night, as in most every GOP debate (except that Chris Christie one), the media declared Marco Rubio the winner. This time it was even true! But an underacknowledged reason why political journalists feel more comfortable with the guy is that he speaks their language: policy fluency, grown-up concerns about long-term fiscal choices, a convincing-for-the-genre rap about the American Dream, and an alleged Seriousness about foreign policy. And make no mistake—what comprises that seriousness is equal parts surfacely impressive knowledge about a variety of global hotspots, and just straight-up, unrestrained hawkishness. It's true of Rubio, it's true of Lindsey Graham, it's true of everyone else who has run for president in the establishment lane. Including the last Rubio-competitor standing there, John Kasich.
Wanna impress your journalist friends? Learn how to pronounce the various exotic factions you intend to either arm or bomb. Exaggerate threats constantly, re-write your own disastrous foreign policy preferences as need be. It's not like they're gonna check! Not as long as you remember to keep reminding them that you're not one of those crazy people, from or popular among the conservative grassroots, who are fed up in a less-than-perfectly-fluent way with America's never-resolving wars.
The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, when endorsing Kasich ahead of his thrilling fourth-place, 7.6 percent finish in the Palmetto State, fell for the he's-not-crazy act hook, line and sinker:
He refuses to pander to those upset about our nation's leadership. Rather than turning Americans' concerns into anger, he prefers to be positive. The United States fundamentally is in great shape, he says, although the country has problems. He believes those can be solved with proper leadership that includes listening, educating, and working with both Democrats and Republicans.
He's not angry, he just wants to carry out regime change all over the globe in the name of "stability," silly! This, at long last, is what America's political class considers "moderate."