Perhaps one of the more disturbing developments in American political life is the unbalanced discussion of foreign policy.
Both parties scramble to see which will be more hawkish; President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney regularly compete to see whether they can out-tough the other.
Romney, as usual, gets the fast track in that direction, especially when he appears to advocate giving a blank check to Israel.
But his zealousness is only a matter of degree; Obama respects shibboleths about America's ally in the Middle East. Instead of questioning whether America can any longer afford to be the world's policeman, both Obama and Romney revel at the prospect.
Indeed, given the problem of Libya, it's a wonder that Obama even wants to hear the name. Hillary Clinton's project has been the only blemish during the fall political campaign.
However, it has made little difference, because Romney persists in pushing a harder line.
George W. Bush's war in Iraq and the conflict in Afghanistan soured Americans on unilateral intervention.
Given that voters have witnessed conflicts galore since the first Gulf War in 1991, to bloody events in Somalia, to Iraq in 2003, a certain uneasiness set in. So voters tend to associate these conflicts, rightly or wrongly, with Republicans. Thus, Romney's more hawkish approach tends to avail nothing.
In 1964, Barry Goldwater's strident positions obscured Lyndon Johnson's steady escalation of the war in South Vietnam. The Gulf of Tonkin incident and the attack on Bien Hoa all were obscured by the GOP presidential candidate's bombastic suggestion of using low-yield atomic devices. Essentially, it got Johnson off the hook.
Indeed, LBJ declared in Pittsburgh in September 1964, "that boys should not be doing what Asian boys should be doing for themselves." By 1965, he backtracked in spectacular fashion, setting in motion a process that sent 500,000 Americans to Vietnam.
For more than two generations, Republicans have abandoned their cautious heritage in favor of a sharper-edged interventionism.
In the late 1940s, "Mr. Republican" Robert Taft of Ohio denounced containment as "globaloney." As late as 1976, vice presidential nominee Robert Dole chided Walter Mondale about "Democrat" wars. In 1964, Goldwater found himself murmuring about the futility of limited war, echoing Gen. MacArthur's line, "Why not victory?" Where Goldwater positioned himself, there was no outflanking Johnson.
Given the way Goldwater had gone so far to the right, he could not punch Johnson, even when China exploded its first nuclear device in October 1964. Coupled with the overthrow of Nikita Khrushchev as general secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR, it might have benefited a more moderate Republican. After all, the collapse of the Nationalist Chinese Army in 1949 to Mao's Zedong's legions and the explosion of USSR's first atomic bomb in September rocked Harry Truman's administration.
By 1964, given voters' concern over Goldwater's alleged extremism, neither of these issues worked, and so will it be for Romney on Libya.
Ron Paul, if he never contributes another thing to American politics, did offer a meaningful critique of American foreign policy.
His line concerned more proportion than purpose. No doubt he desires that the United States stand for its friends, but he did question the cost.
Paul returned to Taft's views, and the Republican Party would be wise to follow his counsel.