What Donald Trump and his apologists don't get about the national interest

A few years ago, I compared the state of our foreign policy debate to the fictional country of Etchasketchistan. It is as if the foreign policy establishment have been turned upside down and shaken, resetting the alignments that have held since 9/11, and in some cases since the end of World War II. You can no longer reliably predict who is going to sound like a “realist,” a democracy-promoting “neocon,” or an “isolationist.”

This realignment—it might be more accurate to call it a de-alignment—started with a briefly opposed and quickly abandoned U.S. intervention in Syria. For about a week in 2013 it was the Democrats, driven in large part by partisan support for President Obama, who sounded like democracy-promoting hawks, and it was Republicans who talked like skeptical anti-interventionists. I observed later that the old alignments seem to snap back into place a little with Russia’s annexation of Crimea and de facto invasion of Eastern Ukraine, which reminded Republicans that they are supposed to be hawks who stand up to the Russkis.

But now we’ve got a Republican presidential nominee who likes the Russkis and their strongman leader, so it’s time to go back to Etchasketchistan for a good shake that will de-align everything again.