The Foreign Policy Preview

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.

Comments are closed.

  1. Poosh

    Romney excoriated Obama for (wisely, in my opinion) not supporting the Iranian protesters; but they’d criticize him if he had.

    I have no idea why you said this. The Bush doctrine which those neocons you bizarrely seem to fear helped put together, did not attack Iran because it had ample power within (in contrast to Iraq for example) to attempt to overthrow itself and transform itself – then would be the time to support the half of Iran who are liberal and “western”. I see no evidence at all that substantial conservatives who supported the Bush wars would decide not to support their objectives. AFTER ALL neocons are former liberals who realised modern liberals do not actually care about world peace or world liberty etc. etc.

    I do not have any confidence in Romney when it comes to foreign policy at all, I do not think he understands the war on terror, I do not think foreign affairs are a big part of him either. Supporting the Syrian “rebels” is not forgiveable. I can understand supporting the arab spring at the start, after all it looked like just maybe the middle east had begun to take its steps onto the road to multiple liberal democracies – the cure as stated by Bush and the Bush doctrine to Islamic Imperialism (terrorism), but it soon became clear that they were just replacing tyrants with worse tyrants, indeed massed tyrants. Libya was somewhat subdued as a direct result of the Iraq war was and Egypt was fine all things considered. Now things are worse and I have little confidence they will get better. I do not see why Romney – or anyone – is being fooled again in Syria. If the Syria rebels wins that that puts Iran at an incredible disadvantage, and we should be concerned with balance of power between Iran and Saudi Arabia et al. All the while not wanting Iran to get nukes… Life is complex and one REALLY wishes Newt was here.

    I am happy Romney appears, at least, to not be one to tolerate Putin. Putin is a tyrant and the elephant in the room. I am simply dismayed by him. Obama’s pact with the tyrant is even more shocking.

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  2. Poosh

    And why was it wise to not support the Iranians in their hour of need? The one people we can rely on to reject Islamism and become friends to the world? The one people with an advanced, western society, desperate to break free of the insane religions tyranny that domesticates their lives? Obama’s greatest sin was throwing the Iranian people under the bus. Bush promised the Iranians would one day overthrow the mullahs and America would come to their aid… One can almost wonder if Obama threw the Iranian’s dreams of liberty under the bus just to spite Bush …

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  3. Hal_10000 *

    And why was it wise to not support the Iranians in their hour of need? The one people we can rely on to reject Islamism and become friends to the world?

    Because I believe our support would only destroy the movement and strengthen the regime. It would have allowed them to portray the Green Movement as Western interference and rallied many of the Iranians to their cause. That the Green Movement failed is not because we did not support it. It’s that the Mullahs has too much power in places that counted, like the military. Our support would not have changed that; it would have arguably have made things worse.

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  4. Poosh

    But the same thing happened in Libya … and Gaddafi was not strengthened at all. Surely the great communicator could have convinced the world that America was only there to help remove the mad mullahs and their religious tyranny.

    But we do not even have to talk about military etc resources. America could have gone to the UN and demanded action now, demanded the world demand Iran to stop. You can come up with many scenarios which don’t involve bombings like we did in Libya. The Green Movement etc did call for American help as well, perhaps the pictures were posted on this blog, I forget. I understand your point, and it’s more a point of calculation – but as I said, plenty of the “arab street” demanded American intervention … (And the persians of Iran ((actually due to arab conquests of former Persia many Iranians are Arabs)) are more favourable than the arab street) so I don’t think it weighs in favour of making things worse.

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  5. Hal_10000 *

    I don’t think the comparison to Libya is really valid. Libya is a country of five million people that was controlled by an unpopular dictator. Iran is a nation of 75 million controlled by a government that *is* popular among certain segments of the population. I think it’s likely that some support was being given quietly. But it’s a very delicate situation with Iran (Moussavi, for example, supports the nuclear program, if I recall correctly). I also think it’s inaccurate to say we’ve done nothing. The sanctions, now with Russia on board, are devastating. Iran is experiencing a ridiculous hyperinflation right now.

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  6. CM

    I can understand supporting the arab spring at the start, after all it looked like just maybe the middle east had begun to take its steps onto the road to multiple liberal democracies – the cure as stated by Bush and the Bush doctrine to Islamic Imperialism (terrorism), but it soon became clear that they were just replacing tyrants with worse tyrants, indeed massed tyrants.

    How did this “soon become clear”? Democracies don’t just spring up over-night, and it doesn’t make sense to say it was a failure simply because you don’t like who was elected. If you agree, what else leads you to your conclusion?

    Life is complex and one REALLY wishes Newt was here.

    Pulease. Newt did one of the most obvious flip-flops over Libya, and within the same 24 hour period. He was operating in full “I’m against whatever Obama supports” foreign-policy mode.

    One can almost wonder if Obama threw the Iranian’s dreams of liberty under the bus just to spite Bush …

    Pretty obvious ODS. Why you’d feel the need to put it on display is anyone’s guess.

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  7. mrblume

    (Moussavi, for example, supports the nuclear program, if I recall correctly)

    Everyone in Iran supports the nuclear program. And that doesn’t even mean a bomb. Let’s remember that until at least very recently, the foreign policy headword of the crazies was “zero enrichment”.

    I’m happy to see Poosh show some appreciation for Iranian civil society, and how liberal it is in many ways. He still completely overestimates the green movement, which permeates Iran about as much as Occupy Wallstreet the US. They generally did not want outside interference. And please, what was Obama supposed to do? Send actual troops? Deliver weapons to a rebel army that never existed?

    For a while, it was in mode to critize the intervention in Libya, for bringing Islamists to power. Even after Bengazi, you don’t here that as much anymore. Instead, now the problem is no invervention in Syria. It’s obvious that the only guiding principle here is “critize the president no matter what”. Reminds me of anti-war democrats from four years ago, which suddenly really started to like bombing things.

    I also wonder if there is any apprecation at all here for any responsibility the US might have, for propping up a dictator for decades, and it’s, ehm, unintended consequences (the favourite word).

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  8. HARLEY

    Supplying arms to the Syrian rebels, is not a good idea, given that many of them are backed by Al quaida off shoots and the like. Romany is playing tot he Neo-con base on that , stupid…

    Iran, I had friend on the ground in Iran during the greed revolution. They just wanted political and public pressure from the US and its allies , a show of support, like what was going to the later, Arab Spring. They did not want US Troops, they did not want military force, they wanted international recognition of their struggle.., they wanted the fucking world not to turn their god damm back to their plight. Such support would have got the fence sitters in the Military to support their cause, but h they got no such support, and the revolution died stillborn

    As for the nuke program,many are opposed to the bomb program, which seems to be the only program the power generation part?? not seem much of that.

    If Iran gets a bomb Saudi Arabia will want a bomb,and you can bet your ass they can finance a quick track program…. yeah that will make everything more stable.

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  9. Poosh

    I’m happy to see Poosh show some appreciation for Iranian civil society, and how liberal it is in many ways. He still completely overestimates the green movement, which permeates Iran about as much as Occupy Wallstreet the US.

    I am not necessarily talking about the Green Movement as much as the general population (urban). Apart from internet sources I do have Iranian friends who given me details.

    As for “omg criticise Obama” plenty of Republicans saluted Obama for Libya. And AT THE TIME many gave dire warnings and criticised him – and have been consistent for Syria. This notion of “they’re just attacking Obama, no mater what,” is a myth.

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  10. Poosh


    They did not want US Troops, they did not want military force, they wanted international recognition of their struggle.., they wanted the fucking world not to turn their god damn back to their plight.

    Blam. Exactly.

    I am unsure the neocon base is receptive to arming Syria as a general rule. I think plenty of Necons are sensible enough to know that’s a bad idea given what has happened in the Arab Spring.

    I mean some of these arab spring protesters protested equality for women, and these were women!

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  11. Hal_10000 *

    They did not want US Troops, they did not want military force, they wanted international recognition of their struggle.., they wanted the fucking world not to turn their god damn back to their plight.

    A good point. I think of what Bush 41, the best foreign policy President in recent history, IMHO, would have done. I think he would have found a way to build up world-wide condemnation and support for the Green movement without it being pinned on us. The Iranian situation required a subtlety and skill that this Administration is simply not capable of.

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