It's not new anymore, but it's still striking that the 2012 GOP candidates make pains to distance themselves from aggressive foreign policy. In New Hampshire, Jon Huntsman told some reporters that his foreign policy would be less intrusive. I asked if that meant he would support interventions like the Libya no-fly zone -- the "lead from behind" strategy, with America just backing up efforts by NATO countries with limited air power.
"We didn't intervene in Tunisia, and we didn't intervene in Egypt," he said. So, no.
In the debate, Perry was pressed on his own dovish thoughts, and he didn't back down from them.
"That was a philosophical statement that Americans don't want to see their young men and women going into foreign countries without a clear reason that American interests are at stake," he said, "and they want to see not only a clear entrance; they want to see a clear exit strategy, as well. We should never put our young men and women's lives at risk when American interests are not clearly defined by the president of the United States, and that's one of the problems this president is doing today."
Thus spoke the new GOP frontrunner. It was left to Rick Santorum, of all people, to attack the isolationism, and it wasn't one of his best moments.
"We could have been a source for good from the very get-go in Libya, but this president was indecisive and confused from the very beginning," he said. "He only went along with the Libyan mission because the United Nations told him to, which is something that Ronald Reagan would have melted like the old Wicked Witch of the West before he would have allowed that to happen."
That sounds foolhardy, and it is -- kneejerk, warmed over hawkishness that has less and less purchase in the GOP.