I wish I knew how to quit you, Herman Cain!

I know I declared a mercy rule on Herman Cain, but two developments have created a one-time exception. First, Cain sent up the first signal that he might drop out of the race. Second, he delivered a foreign policy speech while adding a "paper" and a "brochure" to his campaign website. And I just can't quit Herman Cain -- the man has provided way too much fodder for this blog to simply let him fade away. So, for old time's sake -- one last post!!

There's little in the way of an overarching strategic vision or discussion of cross-cutting issues (though, to be fair, that could have been in the speech itself which, according to NRO's John J. Miller, "was curiously light on substance."). The paper is really just a list of twenty countries, the labels Herman Cain applies to them, and then a paragraph or two of whatever his interns could find on Wikipedia description. Some examples of the labels:

Mexico: "Friend and Partner"

Canada: "Friend and Ally"

Brazil: "Friend"

Russia: "Rival"

Iran: "Adversary Regime"

Afghanistan: "Strategic Partner"

Pakistan: "Danger and Opportunity"

India: "Strategic Partner"

China: "Competitor"

I'm only disappointed that the Cain campaign wasn't more thorough and imaginative with its countries. Some suggestions:

Chile: "Strategic, mountainous ally"

Turkey: "Sultry Minx"

Saudi Arabia: "Ask John Bolton"

Lebanon: "Good kebabs"

Hawaii: "This one's ours, right?"

Uzbekistan: "Wait, that's a real country?"

As for the countries Cain does talk about, well, some highlights suggest that outdated Wikipedia entries Cain's staff might have needed another draft:

Germany is a key figure in Europe’s economy. It has risen to the daunting challenge of keeping the euro afloat in troubled financial times – no small feat....

Russia’s insistence on the New START Treaty has put the U.S.A. at a distinct disadvantage, not only relative to Russia, but also to the world’s other nuclear powers.

Mr. Cain sheds no tears for Colonel Gaddafi, who personally ordered the killing of Americans. However, the White House launched the war in Libya under the Obama Doctrine of the “responsibility to protect.” The question now is: “protect whom?” The Libyan rebellion-turned-government has been aided by al Qaeda, and it is dominated by Islamists that have not been friendly to U.S. interests. Also, despite the fact that Libya is more of a vital interest to Europe than it is to America, (Europe buys 90% of Libya’s oil and it would be Europe that would be overwhelmed in any refugee crisis), President Obama spent more than a billion dollars on this adventure and led the initial military action. As president, Mr. Cain will work to bring clarity to the Libyan situation....

Under President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt was a friend. With Mubarak shoved out by Arab Spring protests -- with help from President Obama -- Egypt could be a nightmare unfolding.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which was determined to be a terrorist organization under Mubarak, is poised to pick up a sizable number of seats in Parliamentary elections. Though in office too long, at least Mubarak maintained peace with Israel, which polls show 90% of Egyptians oppose. Now we’re seeing the results, with cross-border attacks on Israeli civilians, the ransacking of Israel’s embassy in Cairo, opening up the border to a terrorist organization in Gaza, and open season on Coptic Christians, with churches being burned and mobs on killing sprees.

Egypt is an example of the pressing need for the clarity that Mr. Cain will bring to U.S. foreign policy....

Mr. Cain’s overall strategy for our chief economic competitor is this: Outgrow China. His economic policies will unleash the growth potential of the U.S. economy and transcend the threat from China. (emphasis added)

There's more, but you get the drift. As you can see, for a number of countries, Cain's paper lists concerns and then says Cain will bring "clarity" to the issue -- without saying exactly what that means in terms of policy. In other words, Cain keeps calling for carity in an unclear manner.

In other places, the paper simply gets its facts wrong (cough, Germany, cough) or proposes fantastical solutions (cough, China, cough). There are plenty of other mistakes (check out the Yemen section), but I'll let the readers find them in the comments.

To conclude, Herman Cain managed to hire some of the worst campaign interns ever to produce this dud of a document.

Herman, I swear....

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Daniel W. Drezner

Only politics is preventing a solution to the eurocrisis. Uh-oh.

So the eurozone crisis is metastasizing from really bad to even worse.  Over at The New Yorker,  James Surowiecki blogs that what's so frustrating about the situation is that the impediments to a solution are easily surmountable: 

[W]hat’s easy to miss, amid the market tremors and the political brinksmanship, is that this is that rarest of problems—one that you really can solve just by throwing money at it....

The frustrating thing about all this is that there is a ready-made solution. If the European Central Bank were to commit publicly to backstopping Italian and Spanish debt, by buying as many of their bonds as needed, the worries about default would recede and interest rates would fall. This wouldn’t cure the weakness of the Italian economy or eliminate the hangover from the housing bubble in Spain, but it would avert a Lehman-style meltdown, buy time for economic reforms to work, and let these countries avoid the kind of over-the-top austerity measures that will worsen the debt crisis by killing any prospect of economic growth....

So the problem is not that the E.C.B. can’t act but that it won’t. The obstacles are ideological and, you might say, psychological.

As someone who agrees with Surowiecki on the economic diagnosis, the political scientist in me is forced to call a flagrant foul on this kind of analysis.  In labeling the problem as one of "ideology" or "psychology," Surowiecki is explicitly arguing that it's just so absurd that the correct policy is not being pursued.  If only someone could talk some sense into the key policymakers, then -- snap! -- the crisis would be resolved. 

As someone who studies this stuff for a living, simply saying that political ideology, interest, or institutions can be easily changed borders on the comical.  Ideas, interests and institutions are the bread and butter of politics, and all of them are far stickier than economists would like you to believe.  There's more than seven decades of entrenched thinking that would require the Bundesbank and the ECB to alter their approach.  Crisis or no crisis, that's not just easily dismissed. 

Furthermore, looking at the Franco-German crisis bargaining, any actual deal to bolster EFSF resources, empower the ECB, and/or create something approximating a fiscal union would require that Southern Europe agree to remake their domestic economies to more closely resemble the German model.  This has always been Merkel's bargain:  she's been willing to cede greater power to the EU provided that EU policy preferences looks more like Germany.  This makes sense for Germany, but the kind of wrenching changes and adjustments that will be asked of Spain and Italy are massive.  The fact that Berlin -- rather than Brussels -- is the source of this diktat will add a fun new level of political difficulties as well. 

A deal could be reached, but no one should be kidding themselves -- it is fantastically difficult, and saying that just "politics" or "ideology" or "psychology" is getting in the way doesn't make it any easier.