Opinion

Opinion

Romney stuck in cold war thinking

July 25, 2012

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Foreign policy hasn’t figured much in the presidential campaign, which is lucky for Mitt Romney.

With scant foreign policy experience, Romney has had trouble projecting himself as a statesman. His foreign policy statements have veered from vague to disturbingly hawkish.

So this week, he’s off to Europe and Israel in hopes of burnishing his image as the future leader of the “free world.” Unfortunately, the world Romney seeks to lead no longer exists.

Romney’s foreign affairs statements have a Rip Van Winkle quality, as if he had just emerged from a sleep of two decades. His cold war language suits the bipolar world of the 20th century, not the current era.

One telling example: Earlier this year, he made the stunning claim that Russia was “our No. 1 geopolitical foe,” prompting former Secretary of State Colin Powell to comment, “C’mon, Mitt, think. That isn’t the case.”

Romney’s cold war mind-set prevents him from coming to grips with the major global problems he would have to deal with. In October, in a major foreign policy speech, he insisted: “This century must be an American century. In an American century, America leads the free world, and the free world leads the entire world.”

I agree that American leadership still matters mightily on most global issues. But does Romney intend, as he has stated, to increase our military by 100,000 troops and raise defense spending — while cutting taxes? Has he read the newspapers for the last year?

Does he really think we still lead something called the “free world” against one nefarious enemy — I guess, in his view, Moscow?

Other powerhouse states are emerging, including, most obviously, China. Regional powers such as Turkey and Brazil are no longer constrained by the cold war and don’t have to obey Washington. The security threats we face are no longer represented by one country or one “ism.”

These are geopolitical facts, not some plot cooked up by President Barack Obama. But Romney seems unwilling to face facts.

Nor does he confront the damage to America’s global reputation caused by the debacle of the Iraq war. Perhaps that’s because the list of Romney’s foreign policy advisers is heavy on hawkish members of the George W. Bush team, including several who led the charge to invade Baghdad.

Though Romney never mentions George W., he’s close to former vice president and uber-hawk Dick Cheney, who just threw him a big fundraiser in Wyoming. Romney said last year that Cheney’s “wisdom and judgment” would provide a model for choosing his own vice president.

Romney’s homage to Cheney may be a ploy to convince right-wing Republicans of his conversion to conservatism. But his view of leadership does seem to channel Cheney with its heavy reliance on military and other threats.

On Afghanistan, Romney’s policy position is mostly vague and hard to differentiate from Obama’s. But he has said bluntly: “We should not negotiate with the Taliban. We should defeat the Taliban.” Never mind that U.S. military commanders say the war cannot be won militarily.

I’ve been skeptical about the administration’s efforts to talk with Taliban factions, but the effort must be made. Without a political settlement, the U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan will lead to civil war and chaos. Even former Bush national security adviser Stephen Hadley wrote an essay titled: “Enough Already: It’s Time to Talk to the Taliban.”

Waving his big stick, Romney doesn’t explain how open hostility toward Russia jibes with the need for Moscow’s help in moving military supplies into Afghanistan, and troops and equipment out.

A vital northern supply route runs through Russia and central Asia.

As for China, Romney seems eager to set up a confrontation with the Asian giant immediately upon taking office. He promises to declare China a currency manipulator as soon as he takes the oath.

And then there’s Iran. Romney has said, “If I’m president, the Iranians will have no question but that I will be willing to take military action” to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Eager to portray Obama as weak — despite the president’s success in imposing crippling economic sanctions on Tehran — the Republican candidate is boxing himself in to military action. There are even rumors that Romney might give a high-ranking foreign policy post to the hard-line conservative John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who is leading the charge for a U.S. attack on Iran.

Never mind that the U.S. military brass believes another Mideast war could unleash disaster, exacerbate the global economic crisis — and increase the chances that Iran will produce a nuclear weapon.

Romney’s campaign stop in Israel may win votes from evangelicals, but it won’t answer the key question about his foreign policy bona fides: Does he really believe the world is still frozen in the paradigm of a cold war that ended 20 years ago?

— Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial-board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Comments

Kate Rogge 2 years, 11 months ago

So American exceptionalism is all about what we can blow up? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

cowboy 2 years, 11 months ago

Mitt Romneys Diary from Daily Kos

Hello, human diary. It is I, Mitt Romney, your better.

As a last bit of preparation for my trip overseas, today I gave a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Since they have the word "foreign" prominently in their name, the campaign thought it would be a good transitory step towards speaking with actual foreigners. It also made for a good opportunity to speak of my own foreign policy; sadly, as we are still working towards formulating one, we were not able to take advantage of the occasion. Instead we padded things out with some condemnations of government leaks, which are bad things.

I was able, however, to at least clarify my previous position on Afghanistan, which for some reason individual citizens continue to press me on (the press units, at least, have mostly moved on). I announced that if I were president, I would seek to leave Afghanistan in 2014, as the current president previously announced, but I announced that I would not announce that position because announcing it would be wrong. I believe I was able to satisfactorily clarify the sharp difference between my and my opponent's position on this matter.

Now I am off to various foreign locales. We have scheduled them according to their degree of foreignness (London, then Israel, then Poland), which will give the foreign policy team yet more time to draft a foreign policy. By the time we arrive in Poland, I can only hope they have finally decided whether or not I approve of that nation. It would be irritating to have to un-visit the country retroactively.

Flap Doodle 2 years, 11 months ago

"....scant foreign policy experience..." As if a community organizer nurtured in the fever swamp of corruption otherwise known as Chicago did have foreign policy experience. LOLZ

Liberty275 2 years, 11 months ago

Assassinating an American citizen in another country. I suppose you think that is is jim dandy fine.

funkdog1 2 years, 11 months ago

Seriously? A "weak sister"? You think calling someone a woman is a great insult? When was the last time you had a date? And just under whose watch was Osama Bin Laden caught and killed?

Getaroom 2 years, 11 months ago

That's not all Willard Romney doesn't have much to show off. Except of course his off shore tax havens but Snap_pop_ wouldn't mention those would now - so inconvenient aren't they?
What a piece of work this guy is spouting "my Americanism is better than your's" crap. This guy represents the worst of what America has to offer, another sociopath with a load of money looking in the mirror telling himself lies and believing them. Willard Romney is a lose-lose candidate for the Presidency and what do we get? Lies and pressed jeans. It is all he has to offer folks. But he sure does look good in pressed jeans and the casual look while dreaming of dancing ponies and off shore tax havens with that far way look in his $$$ sign eyes.

JPMAC 2 years, 11 months ago

So what if Romney has found a tax free place to put some money. There are plenty of Americans that have done the same thing, including people on Obama’s staff and committees. Romney paid his taxes on the money when he made it. The tax records he has released proved it. Now the Democrats want more tax returns in hopes they can find some kind of discrepancy. He put in the work and became profitable. That is the American dream. It’s time to give Romney a chance. I’m sure he can’t do any worse for sure. You are just spouting hearsay and discontent. Hope you like your Kool-Aid.

oldbaldguy 2 years, 11 months ago

Obama gave the kill order on bin Laden. He has ordered more drone strikes than Bush. He inherited two messes and has one left. Iran has always been a problem and will continue to be one. To state you will take military action before you are elected is fool hardy. We do not need another 4 years of A-holes that got us into Iraq again.

JPMAC 2 years, 11 months ago

Paul R. Getto: I just got back from Afghanistan. And I take offence from what you just said. I can tell you for a fact that this administration has done more to tie our hands on what we should be doing. A lot of the people running the country right now NEVER saw any military duty. Just because you did not serve does not mean you will be a good or bad President. It just turns out the person leading the country sucks at his job. I think he has played more rounds of golf than days in the office. He has taken more vacations than any other sitting President. I guess he new he would only be a one term President.

cowboy 2 years, 11 months ago

Those pesky facts JP.... days off in first 31 months Reagan 112 Clinton 28 Bush2 180 Obama 61

asixbury 2 years, 11 months ago

Could it be that they don't like America because of our foreign policy of butting our nose in everyone's business? We take over a country, killing hundreds of thousands of their citizens, all in the name of freedom. Give me a break. They don't like us because we force our governmental structures on other countries under false pretenses.

JPMAC 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm not sure where you are getting your facts about us killing hundreds of thousand of there own people? That would be the insurgents doing that. Just look at the 6 children in Afghanistan killed by an IED placed to kill Afghan soldiers. I don't think you know what you are talking about. I do, due to the fact I just spent nine months there. And just for the record. We protect other countries boards better than our own.

Carol Bowen 2 years, 11 months ago

Romney is just filling in the blanks on his resume.

beatrice 2 years, 11 months ago

Well, it wasn't actually Obama who said "lead from behind," but consider that the idea meant the downfall of Gadhafi and ... NO AMERICAN LIVES WERE LOST!

I would say the plan worked.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 years, 11 months ago

Romney already has one overriding negative to his credit.

He is a Republican.

Sam Brownbackwards is a Republican

Kris Koldbach is a Republican.

We in Kansas have seen the havoc that these Republicans have caused.

Do you need any more information?????

cowboy 2 years, 11 months ago

Mitt's Diary from Daily Kos

Hello, human diary. It is I again, Mitt Romney, your better.

I cannot write much today, Mr. Diary, because I am off to England!

During a conference call, I was finally able to hear some of what my foreign policy team is suggesting as my foreign policy. The overall theme is that we will work hard to protect the Anglo-Saxons from the Soviet Union and from the possible Muslims in the American government, which we will do primarily by opening the hearts of Americans and making them more American, like the English are. So much of this is new information to me—I can certainly see my campaign has been getting its money's worth from these advisers.

There was a bit of confusion earlier as I had presumed we were going to be taking my bus to London. As it turns out this was not the case, which is a bit of a disappointment. I do not know if I have mentioned recently how fond I am of that bus. As part of my new focus on projecting a strong foreign policy, I had planned to send it around to honk loudly at various Olympic events, in order to give the other nations what for.

cowboy 2 years, 11 months ago

Romney in UK for less than 8 hours and p's off the whole country , laughable.

MarcoPogo 2 years, 11 months ago

Oh no, the Brits are angry. Watch out, everybody!

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