Romney’s latest foreign policy pronouncements continue his pattern of criticism without substance and position without difference.
Romney’s positions mirror Obama’s. He did offer to “lead from the front”. What that appears to mean is more military spending. He promises to “roll back President Obama’s deep and arbitrary cuts to our national defense”. The only cuts that fit that description are part of the sequestration “poison pill”. That was the ransom Republicans got in return for raising the debt ceiling. The President is using this “poison pill” exactly in the way that it was designed, to force both sides to come up with something better. He is holding the defense department hostage in EXACTLY the same way that Tea Party House Republicans held the financial standing of the whole country hostage – but Republicans don’t like it when the weapon they created is used on them. So we have this fiction that the President wants to cut defense and weaken the country. If Romney wants to sell that fiction, doesn’t he at least owe the country some explanation for where the money is going to come to make up the difference in the debt deal?
Romney’s attempt to connect the recent anti-American violence to some fundamental weakness in American policy is naive and dangerous. The Obama administration has quietly been getting the job done. Somali piracy contained. Yemen training bases destroyed. Gaddafi was overthrown. Iran isolated and sanctions causing domestic unrest. Al Qaeda decimated. New democracies and reforms are emerging.
Romney feels that rhetorical swagger and simple affirmations of American Exceptionalism will dissuade Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, frighten terrorists into submission, and create loyal peaceful Arab democracies.
Bush’s simple answer to a complex world was democracy. He equated spreading democracy with spreading peace. He then invaded Iraq to prove his point. The result was an Iranian nuclear program and the worldwide spread of al Qaeda.
Simple answers don’t work because they almost always ignore unintended consequences.
Now democracy is finally blossoming in the Middle East and Romney says it’s dangerous. Punish Egypt because they elected the Muslim Brotherhood. Arm the Syrian rebels even though al Qaeda has deeply infiltrated them. He did say that we should only give arms to those Syrian rebels that “share our values”. I’m curious how he is going to sort them out, or prevent a “values” rebel from handing his US rocket launcher to his al Qaeda cousin. We went down this road once already in Afghanistan where we ended up both training and arming bin Laden and the first generation of al Qaeda. We should try not to repeat that mistake.
Romney didn’t even mention the two biggest problems in the Middle East- an unstable nuclear Pakistan and a post-withdrawl Afghanistan.
Foreign policy is complex and young democracies need our help to peacefully grow. Democracy is messy and it doesn’t always go the way that you want it to. Venezuela is a perfect example. But if we believe what we say we believe, we have to hang in there and help when we have an opportunity.
Romney has not demonstrated that he has the patience or the depth of understanding to encourage the growth of democracy.
He is looking no further than the next month. He desperately wants to win this election and will do anything and say anything that he thinks will help him do it.