Mitt Romney’s concerning foreign policy

(C)Gage Skidmore

By Jake Coltman

The Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, has finally revealed a full vision of what his foreign policy would look like.  The message is that Mr. Romney is tired of America’s weak stance towards Russia, China and Iran, and that he would like to see a policy shift to favour America’s oldest allies, Israel and Great Britain.  After eight years of Bush Junior’s unilateral shock and awe policy, and four years of systematic neglect by the Obama administration it is tempting to be enticed into thinking that a more concerned America will be both in world and national interest; sadly however, a closer look at what the Republican’s team is saying seems to give us more cause for concern than reason to hope.

On Tuesday the Daily Telegraph quoted an anonymous aide to Mitt Romney as saying that:

“In contrast to President Obama, whose first instinct is to reach out to America’s adversaries, the Governor’s first impulse is to consult and co-ordinate and to move closer to our friends and allies overseas so they can rely on American constancy and strength.”

It is worth spending some time deconstructing what point is being made here.  Firstly, there seems to be an accusation that America’s “friends and allies” feel insecure under the current policies.  This is hard to square with what said friends and allies are doing.  Britain is slashing its defence capabilities  and European plans to form a new military pole are once again floundering on apathy.  Israel continues to be able to essentially command two carrier fleets and the US Defence Secretary recently announced a significant increase in forces in the Pacific Rim to protect America’s allies from China’s rise.  On this note Obama can hardly be criticised.

The quotation also implies that America’s foreign policy has been totally aloof and uncoordinated with its allies.  This is little more than totally false.  In the form of NATO, America maintains and supports a combined command network for the Alliance through which most of its recent operations have been run.  Both Iraq and Afghanistan were multilateral coalitions of the willing with dozens of other nations working together, indeed even in America’s backyard, for instance, the operations in Haiti and Grenada, the US ensured that it worked with other, dispensable, nations.  More recently, Japan has just announced that it will integrate its entire command network with America, formalizing an arrangement common in the region.

The real meat of the quotation is a gut reaction to Mr. Obama’s policy that America is not acting the way it should on the world stage.  The neo-conservatives resent the neglect of the Anglo-Saxon partnership, the downplaying of the great NATO, the perceived snubbing of Israel, the willingness to work with countries like Pakistan, the fact that Iran can flout America’s wishes “without” reprisals, and most of all, the relative decline of the USA.  All of these are seen as signs of weakness that justify Obama being the President who doesn’t want “America to be the strongest nation on earth” and this perception is exactly why we should be concerned with Romney’s proposed foreign policy.

This is not a retrograde step to the neo-conservative Bush era, it is a retrograde step back to the Cold War.  During the Cold War, America arguably did need the ability to militarily intervene in multiple theatres or to be able to unilaterally control the sea, and nations like Britain were arguably better off for it doing so.  Similarly it made sense to see the world in an “us and them” framework in which the US protected and furthered the interests of its allies, however, in the modern world the US is a global leader, and we need so much more from it.

No matter who is elected as the next President, and indeed the next after that, the US will still be the nation that the rest of the world looks to to take the lead on global issues.  This is what we rely on America for, and where we most require “American constancy and strength”.  We face no immediate military threat from an aggressive Russia or an adventurous China, and indeed the military capacity of Europe today is sufficient to defend itself from any invader.  What we cannot do ourselves is resolve bigger, subtler, issues like international terrorism or nuclear proliferation, and we will not be aided in this by President Romney looking for a “powerful” America.  Credibility as the global leader won’t be won by partisan alliances and military strength, but by conciliation with nations like Pakistan, Russia, China and even Iran, and through not being so closely identified with causes like Israel and NATO.  Obama may well not have expressly supported the British cause in a number of areas, and he may have snubbed us on occasion, but his general foreign policy does us so much more good than the attentions of Romney possibly could.

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