It’s no secret that one my biggest concerns with a potential Romney presidency is foreign policy. I’m not exactly thrilled with Obama’s brand of bumbling around, of course. The mess in Benghazi is close to exploding into a full blown scandal (and would have already, if the MSM were doing their job).
But Romney’s been making some unsettling noises about increasing defense spending and using the military option on Iran. And I look at his foreign policy team and see 17 of the 24 are former Bushies or neocons and I shudder.
So a week ago, Romney gave what was supposed to be his big foreign policy speech. It’s a good time for it. Apart from the Benghazi cock-up, we have warnings that the Taliban and AQ may be resurgent (I’m dubious of the latter; pretty convinced of the former). And they are not changed, having recently shown the courage to gun down a defenseless 14 year-old girl for promoting education.
So what did I think of the speech? Apart from various mis-statement of facts (embassy attacks are down from the Bush years overall; the Navy is not short of ships), it did nothing to assuage my concerns. It was ripped straight of the bad old days of agression and hubris overseas. Read Gene Healy’s analysis:
In his speech at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney called for a new approach to the Middle East, based on “these bedrock principles: America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might.” Those are attitudes, not principles. And if jut-jawed self-assurance that we know what we’re doing in the Middle East was the key to victory, we’d have a little more to show from the last 11 years of war. Hope is not a strategy, but hubris isn’t either.
At VMI, Romney criticized President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” as a sign we’re neglecting our allies elsewhere. Romney’s not against pivoting toward Asia per se, since “China’s recent assertiveness is sending chills through the region.” But also he wants us to refocus on Europe, brush back Putin, arm the Syrian rebels and get tougher with Iran. A Romney administration will pivot like a dervish, directing American force and authority everywhere at once. At a press conference the morning of the speech, his top foreign policy aides even refused to rule out boots on the ground in Libya.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what Romney really thinks. As I’ve noted before, the GOP response to Obama’s foreign policy is to criticize no matter what he’s doing, even flipping their criticism when the policy changes. Romney excoriated Obama for (wisely, in my opinion) not supporting the Iranian protesters; but they’d criticize him if he had. He blasted Obama for not getting involved in Syria, as though there were anything to be gained by getting into that mess. He criticized him for drawing down our presence in Iraq … on Bush’s timetable, actually. And I’m still not clear what he thinks we should have done in Libya. The only theme is that Obama is wrong. Whatever Obama’s doing, even if it’s what Romney advocated two months ago, it’s wrong.
This reflexive criticism has consequences, apart from sounding dumb. It means that when Obama really has screwed up, as he apparently did in Benghazi, the criticism is ignored because … well, the Republicans are always going on about Obama.
More to the point, what new solutions is Romney proposing? More military spending, more troops, more involvement, more drones trikes, more sanctions on Iran, more “pressure” on Libya and Egypt — in other words, doing everything Obama is doing, only more so.
This did not go unnoticed by those who aren’t in the tank for either Obama or Romney. Rand Paul, God bless him, smacked down Romney while still saying he’ll support him.
Romney chose to criticize President Obama for seeking to cut a bloated Defense Department and for not being bellicose enough in the Middle East, two assertions with which I cannot agree.
Defense and war spending has grown 137% since 2001. That kind of growth is not sustainable.
In North Africa and the Middle East, our problem has not been a lack of intervention. In the past 10 years we have fought two full wars there, and bombed or sent troops into several others.
This past year, President Obama illegally began a war with Libya, taking sides with the rebels to unseat an admittedly bad man in Moammar Gadhafi.
Paul calls Obama’s policies an “act first, think later” policy and believes that Romney will do the same, only more so. I can’t help but agree. For both of the candidates.