Romney’s foreign policy speech to VMI on October 8th was a piece with his speeches on domestic policies: they just don’t add up much, have little substance, and were filled with misconceptions, empty rhetoric, and indeed lies. Too bad for Americans who want to understand how America can play a constructive role in the world. It seems that this speech is part of a tilt toward moderation that seems to be the new tactic to gain votes in the middle in addition to his existing right wing fanatics.
Let’s look at just a few of the quotes and ideas in Romney’s VMI speech which is hard to characterize as a “policy speech.” It is so void of any specifics, yet it gives some insight of his revised perspective and its other many problems:
First, the Middle East: Romney appears to try to walk back on his “47%” disastrous talk to his rich funders on the question of a “two state solution” being the basis of a peace deal. He leaves out the movement of the Embassy to Tel Aviv, but implies that we should be in lock step with “Bibi” and his hawkish backers on when America should act…a reiteration of the “red line” demand which out sources American decision making to Israel. “The world must never see any daylight between our two nations:” What the New York Times characterized as “seeming to tie America’s decision about whether to take military action to decisions made in Israel. This indeed would be a first! Not even Britain, our true closest ally, would claim that privilege.
On Iran he called for tougher sanctions without ever saying what they would be. Obama and the Europeans are now applying harsh sanctions and they are having a devastating impact on Iran’s economy. Any further action would require agreement with our allies and the UN Security Council. How would Romney get their agreement? He again implies acts of war and does not explain their consequences to the public.
On climate change, probably the greatest threat to our planet in this century…not a word. His past stance on “drill baby drill” and ever more coal burning plants would only accelerate the build up of CO2 and increase weather disasters around the globe. But again, only silence heard in his “major” speech.
Romney has accused Obama of not acting forcefully in areas such as Libya, Syria, and the Middle East generally. This was again his thrust in his recent speech at the Virginia Military Institute where, again, as in earlier talks, he talks the talk but does not walk the walk in giving us any specifics. His nostrums would endanger American leadership and vital interests abroad. Again he raises in his speech the death of our American diplomats to gain political points for a tragedy not of Obama’s making nor significant for broad American engagement in the region. His remarks, as I said, were indecent and misplaced.
On military spending and our military capability, the New York Times called his statement in this area a “lie” for which I concur since the cuts were demanded by the Republicans as part of the debt ceiling deal. And to add a point, America already has two carrier task forces in the Gulf region. Again, Romney tracks Obama’s polices but seems to claim credit for making them his own.
On Syria, Iran, and Afghanistan, Romney wants to sound more aggressive without really doing anything new.
Further, he thinks we should make Russia a geopolitical “foe” and pushes a confrontational strategy towards China – a country with one of the largest populations on earth and a key power in Asia and one of our largest trading partners. It is evident he has no real strategy but a proclivity to increase tensions rather than abate them.
In some cases, his proposals are not that different than Obama’s in dealing with many of these complex issues or countries. When it does diverge, it goes off the rails. Much of his “different” policies would cause more harm and be counterproductive than current approaches.
All he can often say is he would be “stronger”…..but in what way? That is left to the imagination but voters can doubt there is any reality behind such empty rhetoric and platitudes. When he does not have a script, he often puts his foot in it.
It is not enough to say that America is exceptional, as if that was a policy prescription. It is not.
In short, again, there is no “there there” with Romney’s so-called foreign policy positions and speeches. But there are a lot of dangerous prescriptions for confrontation, antagonism, and blindness to the realities of the 21st Century global landscape and its risks and opportunities.