The Republican presidential candidates gathered in South Carolina on Saturday night to dive into a topic they had largely skirted: foreign policy. Their exchanges followed a predictable rhythm: They were long on criticism of President Barack Obama and promises to do better and short on nuance and complexity.

That balance works far better when campaigning than when governing, however. On the rare occasions that they talk to voters about international issues, the GOP candidates offer up a standard indictment of Obama's foreign policy: The president has forsaken Washington's friends, coddled its adversaries, and failed to understand America's exceptional power to

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