Sowell on 'Experience'

The issue of foreign policy experience has been raised among the partisan attacks against Governor Sarah Palin. One of the nation's most esteemed thinkers, Thomas Sowell thoughtfully loks at the issue of "experience".

No governor ever had foreign policy experience before becoming president - not Ronald Reagan, not Franklin D. Roosevelt, nor any other governor.

It is hard to know how many people could possibly have had foreign policy experience before reaching the White House besides a secretary of state or a secretary of defense.

The last secretary of war (the old title of secretaries of defense) to later become president of the United States was William Howard Taft, 100 years ago. The last secretary of state to become president of the United States was James Buchanan, a century and a half ago.

The first President Bush had been head of the Central Intelligence Agency, which certainly gave him a lot of knowledge of what was happening around the world, though still not experience in making U.S. foreign policy.

Sen. Joe Biden's years of service on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is even further removed from foreign policy experience. He has had a front-row seat as an observer of foreign policy. But Mr. Biden has never had any real experience of making foreign policy and taking the consequences of the results.

The fact that Sen. Joe Biden has for years listened to all sorts of people testify on all sorts of foreign policy issues tells us nothing about how well he understood the issues.

Out of the four presidential and vice-presidential candidates this year, only Mrs. Palin has had to make executive decisions and live with the consequences.

As for Mr. Obama, his various pronouncements on foreign policy have been as immature as they have been presumptuous.

He talked publicly about taking military action against Pakistan, one of our few Islamic allies and a nation with nuclear weapons.

We should all have second thoughts about what is, and is not, foreign policy "experience."