David Bosco has a terrific post (and a promised series) on “Can Conservatives Learn to Love Multilateral Organizations?” (Short answer: no, especially not in an election year). It is a timely entry after the recent Republican debates on US foreign policy, during which the candidates did their very best to beat each other at the age-old game of beating up the principle of multilateralism.

Much to my horror (but not surprise), Texas Governor Rick Perry took the cake when he promised that, if elected, he would “zero out foreign aid” and instead allocate aid based upon countries’ “support for America.” This comment earned praise from U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-South Carolina), who argued that Perry’s “strong performance” in the most recent debate would revive his candidacy and claimed that “I think you’re gonna hear us talking about zero-based budgeting on foreign aid from here on out.” (This is where Brian would write “barf” or another word spelled out in asterisks).

Quick reminder: US foreign aid is less than $50 billion for FY2012, and on the decline. That’s less than 1% of fiscal spending (much of which goes to military aid, not development aid). This is a far cry from the 20-25% that most Americans seem to think we spend on foreign aid. By the way, has anyone asked Perry or his compatriots how much the US actually spends on foreign aid? Not that facts matter. This is politics, folks.

Then again, Perry’s stance on foreign aid seemed kind and gentle compared to his answer to the question on enhanced interrogation techniques:

Perry said foreign enemies are targeting young American men and women and would “kill them in a heartbeat under any circumstances, using any techniques they can.” Then raising his voice to almost a shout, he said, “This is war.” For the U.S. not to have the ability to use the techniques to get information that would save lives, he said, is “a travesty.

And lest you think Perry saves his gunslinging hyperboles for US foreign policy, you should follow his ongoing assault on higher education here in Texas. See here, here, here, and here. More on this in later posts, if I manage to stop banging my head against the wall.

So when Lyle Lovett sings that “you’re not from Texas, but Texas wants you anyway,” do you think that includes pro-multilateral, pro-human rights academics?