Lindsey Graham’s Guide to Diplomacy

by Derek Davison

They say “everybody’s a critic,” and they’re right. Who wouldn’t want to be a critic? Not only is criticism important, but being a critic can be fun and easy. The Greek historian Plutarch once wrote, “It is a thing of no great difficulty to raise objections against another man’s oration, it is a very easy matter; but to produce a better in its place is a work extremely troublesome,” and he was also right. As long as you don’t have to come up with an alternative, being a critic is awesome.


Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham carefully consider the many problems with US foreign policy.

When it comes to President Obama’s foreign policy, no two people have availed themselves of the ease and joy of being critics more than Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Luckily, the American news media is always ready to offer them optimal TV time to expound on their nuanced view that Things Are Really Bad Right Now, Because Barack Obama. They’re a formidable pair; the venerable senators’ foreign policy critiques are so often in agreement that when even a sliver of daylight appears between the two, it’s literally national news.

For the critic, then, the only hard and fast rule is to avoid talking about what you would do at all costs. However, when Senator Graham shared his critical thoughts about Obama’s foreign policy record July 20 on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he let his guard down a little, and we got a glimpse of what a Lindsey Graham foreign policy agenda might look like:


Well, Senator, there’s a lot to unpack there, specifically with regards to Russia. This crisis over the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight. What did Secretary Kerry not say? What is the administration not yet prepared to do that you think must be done?


One, he didn’t call Putin the thug that he is. He didn’t call for arming the Ukraine so they can defend themselves against rebel separatists supported by Russia. All of the enemies of our nation are being well supplied. Russia and Iran are helping Syria. 160,000 Syrians have been slaughtered, John Kerry, by Russian-supplied weapons to Assad.

While “arming the Ukraine” to help it defeat an enemy it’s already soundly defeating on the battlefield might seem a bit redundant (also, it’s not “the” Ukraine, but I digress), it’s really the first part of the Graham Agenda that could break new ground in international diplomacy. It’s impossible to know for sure without reviewing all the relevant literature, but it seems safe to say that Senator Graham’s “Call Other Leaders Names if You Don’t Like Them” tactic is a real innovation in the field.

Imagine the implications of the Graham Plan on the world stage. If President Obama were to call Vladimir Putin a “thug,” for example, he would decisively “pwn” the Russian leader and thus fundamentally shift the balance of power throughout Eurasia. Similar “pwns” of other key US adversaries, if deployed strategically, could have comparable effects.

While Senator Graham is understandably reluctant to reveal the rest of his foreign policy playbook, given how much it could benefit President Obama and damage Republican chances of a big victory this fall, we have exclusively obtained a few of his other key insights from a reliable source, though we are unable to confirm the authenticity. Still, it’s no exaggeration to say that this is world-changing stuff:

  • Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev: “Thug Junior”
  • Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi/Caliph Ibrahim: “Jerk-Faced Jerk”
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping: “Putzy McPutzerson”
  • Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei: “Captain Doody-Head”
  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: “Polly Prissypants”
  • Hamas leader Khaled Mashal: “Mr. I.P. Freely”
  • Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar: “Amanda Hugnkiss”
  • Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri: “President Lamewad”
  • Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro: “El Matón”
  • Former Cuban President Fidel Castro: “Barack Obama”

Hopefully someone will be able to make good use of this information. The future security of the United States — indeed, of the entire world — could hang in the balance.

Photo: Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) during a break in testimony at the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 7, 2013. Credit: US Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/DOD

Derek Davison

Derek Davison is an analyst covering U.S. foreign policy and international affairs and the writer/editor of the newsletter Foreign Exchanges. His writing has appeared at LobeLog, Jacobin, and Foreign Policy in Focus.



  1. Thanks Mr Davison, even though it’s not a serious list, I did get my morning wake up belly laugh. Proves me right to believe these old folks belong in the funny farm when they sprout the stuff they do. They brew and drink their own koolaid. How rational people can listen to their rants, and still vote them back into office, proves the system is rigged. They like to say they represent the people, but neglect to identify those people. Personally, I believe the whole system needs a house cleaning, maybe even a new system put in its place? None the less, it’s quite clear how the dumbing down in America has enabled the idiots to call the shots.

  2. Lindsey Graham thinks Obama should call Putin a “thug”? Truly idiotic suggestion from the senator from South Carolina.

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