I’ll give former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) for one thing: When you close your mind, he looks and sounds authoritative on foreign policy. But while reading the full text of his speech on the subject to the Virginia Military Institute, one quote jumped out at me: “The president has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years.” That’s odd, I thought. Didn’t he sign new agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea? Yes. I believe that would be a LIEon Romney’s part. Or maybe he just forgot.
Then there was the bit about President Obama desiring “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel. You can find his exact quote here. Most analysts believe he was expressing concern about the effect of American and Israeli policies being exactly alike, which is reasonable enough. But the way Romney used the word in his speech, you’d think Obama desired weaker diplomatic ties with Israel. Should we take this to mean that Romney does want American and Israeli policies to be exactly alike?
I’ve screamed about Congress being to blame for automatic defense spending cuts for weeks now, and I’m not about to do it again. Of course, Romney’s speech would leave you with the impression that it’s all Obama’s fault. That, and continued strife in Syria, their growing war with Turkey, the consulate attack in Libya, and the stalling of statehood talks between Israel and Palestine. Of those, we could blame Obama’s State Department for taking their eye off the ball when the embassy requested improved security.
But how could we tie him to anything else on that list? He didn’t intervene in the Syrian civil war, he isn’t intervening in their battles with Turkey, and he isn’t doing much to broker Israeli-Palestinian talks. In short, Obama isn’t flexing America’s foreign policy muscle enough. I’ll admit that it would help, albeit symbolically, if he were to be clearer on exactly who he supports whenever tension erupts elsewhere in the world. But that’s not enough for Romney.
If this speech was meant to be a complete summation of his approach to global affairs, we can expect a foreign policy doctrine from Romney that embodies the worst stereotype of everyone else’s doctrines: America as the world’s corpulent, sweaty policeman. Nothing about streamlining the military to be more effective. Nothing about mitigating the influence of Russia and China. Not anti-diplomacy, thankfully, but decidedly pessimistic about its potential. He gets points for saying recipients of foreign aid should live up to certain responsibilities. Otherwise, this was amateur hour.
We know how low Romney’s credibility is when it comes to spending; he won’t entertain even the possibility of defense cutbacks. What are the chances that he’ll entertain the possibility of nation-building cutbacks? Or at least bullshit cutbacks?