Monday, October 8, 2012
Chicken Hawk Romney and Republican Foreign Policy
Today Mitt Romney delivered his foreign policy address. He advocated a greatly expanded military and greater military intervention in many countries around the world. The speech was short on details and did not indicate specific differences with President Obama’s foreign policies other than stating that Romney would handle foreign policy better (a bit hard to believe given Romney’s history of inept attempts to interject himself on the world scene – such as his insulting the Brits at the start of the London Olympics).
Mr. Romney did manage to smear President Obama with statements only a lawyer could defend. For example Mr. Romney stated, “The President has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years.” In fact, President Obama negotiated three free trade deals - with South Korea, Colombia and Panama - and signed the legislation ratifying the agreements. Technically these were renegotiated agreements so Romney could claim that they were not “new”.
To understand what irked me the most about Mr. Romney’s speech, consider the following.
As a student Mr. Romney demonstrated in favor of the Vietnam war. However, he himself managed to avoid serving in that war by obtaining a 4-D ministerial deferment so he could save souls for the Mormon Church in the safety of the French countryside. Similarly, none of Romney’s sons have served in the US military.
Mr. Romney has stated that he sees nothing wrong with a system that allows wealthy individuals like him to pay only 12% of their income in taxes while requiring workers with modest incomes to pay a far higher percentage of their income in taxes.
So, what irked me about Romney’s speech is that while Romney argues for sending more American young men and women into battles around the world, he felt no personal obligation to serve in a war which he openly promoted. Nor does Mr. Romney feel any current obligation to pay a proportionate share of his income in taxes to support the expanded military for which he advocates. In sum, Mr. Romney advocates increased US military activity around the globe while putting the children of only other families at risk and while excluding himself from paying a proportionate share of the cost.
The recent Republican record on management of military and security affairs is a disastrous one. The attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon occurred on George W. Bush’s watch. The US counter-attack on the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was not followed up with an effective military/civilian plan to stabilize that country. Afghanistan was left to disintegrate while attention turned to Iraq. The decision to attack Iraq can - at best - be attributed to disastrously erroneous intelligence regarding the presence of weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, the Bush administration’s expectation was that once the US deposed Saddam Hussein that the Iraqi people would lay flowers at the feet of the liberators and quickly set up a vibrant democracy. This vision bespoke the complete ignorance and naivete of the Bush administration regarding a foreign culture. The Iraq war was an unnecessary and costly war, both in blood and treasure. The US armed forces, who commit themselves unreservedly to any task assigned to them and performed splendidly under the most difficult of circumstances, deserved a wiser commander-in-chief.
Furthermore, George W. Bush by pinning down the US military in two simultaneous wars – emboldened our other enemies who knew that the US was in no position to respond elsewhere militarily. In particular, those countries that actually were developing nuclear weapons were emboldened. Thus North Korea in 2006 joined the nuclear weapons club and Iran proceeded uninhibited with its support of terror and its march towards the development of nuclear weapons.
George W. Bush and Mitt Romney both stated that it was not important for the US to find Bin Laden. In contrast, Barack Obama had him found and killed. Barack Obama has also decimated the extended leadership of Al Qaeda and its affiliates.
George W. Bush for all of his tough talk did not succeed in imposing effective sanctions on Iran, wheareas Obama - by convincing other nations to work in synchrony with the US - has imposed unprecedented economic sanctions that are now resulting in skyrocketing inflation in Iran and the eruption of riots in Teheran. We do not know if these sanctions can persuade Iran to change course, but peaceful means of persuasion – whenever possible – need to be attempted before force is applied.
Mitt Romney’s foreign policy echoes that of the Bush administration. As with the Bush administration’s disastrous record on economic management, we cannot afford a repeat performance.