Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mitt Romney's Foreign Policy Flaws

Much talk has filled mass media since the kick off of the presidential elections, with most of the analysis and speculations hovering around what mattered most to Americans: Economy; but what about the other main segment of presidential capabilities, namely foreign policy? While Obama’s foreign policy has crystalized over the past four years in world consciousness, Mitt Romney remains a focal point of controversy, not only because republicans developed the bad habit of ruining their nations’ foreign policy, but also because of the thundering statements of Mitt who vowed to redefine the 21st century as the American century by excellence under Washington’s leadership. Such declarations ought to push the casual citizen to offer special consideration to the Republican runner up for presidency, and to develop a thorough understanding of what is widely held to be the very policies that will shape the world we live in.

I will walk you through Mitt Romney’s Foreign Policy, with special focus on the republicans’ strategy with regard to the Middle East given the current unfolding and turmoil spanning throughout the region.
It is worth noting, before heading any further in this article, that Mitt Romney’s Foreign policy speeches have so far only communicated a set of critiques and undermining statements of Obamas’ handling of key topics such as the Arab Spring, the Syrian crackdown on civilians and the nuclear potential aspirations of Iran, without pointedly communicating a clear strategy and set of policies that will define the path Washington will undergo under a republican administration. Although unclear and suspiciously similar to the key fundamental pivots of Obama’s foreign policy, Romney’s driving philosophy for handling world challenges can be, as written in the Economist’s Lexington notebook, best characterized as a “[…] Reaganesque talk of achieving “peace through strength””[1]. The peace-through-strength line of thought has proven to be
unproductive and indeed detrimental to US interests under the Bush administration. The setbacks of unilateral action coupled with disregard of the new realities of distribution of power makes a new Bush Style foreign policy unraveling in the Middle East, and on a more global scale, noxious for world cooperation and for US interests indeed. Discouragement of multilateral cooperation is not a speculation but rather a plain acknowledgement by Romney himself since he plainly declares in his Foreign policy document when discussing the Syrian crisis: “Instead of taking the initiative to establish his own transition plan, the President outsourced leadership to Kofi Annan and the United Nations”. A foreign policy based on individual aspirations to shape the politics of a certain region through unilateral action not only undermines international cooperation, but also rules out the component of diplomatic compromise, which it is worth remembering, is the driving fuel of world politics and was the only way out for the Kennedy administration during the Cuban Missiles crisis (since we are commemorating the 50th year of the event, it worth clarifying that the secret deal with the USSR over the American missile system deployment in Turkey is the compromise that allowed the peaceful resolution of the Cuban issue, thus Realpolitik in action, not unilateral vocation for world individual leadership as Romney advocates).

The rise of China as a global economic engine, and the resurgence of Russian interests in the Middle East coupled with the emergence of new Arab governments with a less pro-American leadership tendency puts the US in a sensible position, a position where diplomatic efforts and compromises are the only pathway towards greater collaboration, not confrontational tensions that will shrug the new global players from elaborating friendly approaches and policies towards the US. The usage of power can be adopted as foreign policy framework only if a nation is declared as sole superpower and is safe from any potential resistance by instated or emerging global actors. This is what Romney fails to account for in todays pluralistic and multifaceted world, instead clinging to the notion of American exceptionalism, exceptionalism he advocates for not only as a domestic philosophy but also as a driving foreign policy.

Mitt Romney, in his speech at the Virginia Military Institute on October 8th, argued for the case of a 21st century American exceptionalism, a driving philosophy that is the backbone of US foreign policy, by stating that “It is the responsibility of our president to use America’s great power to shape history – not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events”. The American exceptionalism is held to be true today only in the domain of military dominance, yet the emergence of the current economic powers (BRICS) has shattered this concept as detailed in the "Post American World" by Fareed Zakaria. The rise of the rest is what is at the heart of discussions in the white house given the impact such rise upholds on US leadership and exceptionalism, and it is the first time since the collapse of the USSR that the US position as world superpower is under threat. Americans do believe in the uniqueness of American history, yet the debt leverage China has and its trade advantage over the US, the shift of educational and financial capital towards the East and the cultural dilution of American culture amidst new prominent additions to the Globalized world tradition is a reality that contrasts with the typical American belief of US exceptionalism. Thus it is important to question the practicality of the policies Mitt Romney advances and through which he claims he will underscore the rise of the rest and consolidate the fading American exceptionalism.

A pivot point of Romney’s foreign policy speeches is the support of “new friends who share [US] values in the Middle East”[2], yet such assertion is neither realistic nor in line with the republican fervent policies in regard to Israel. In his website, Mitt Romney carves a foreign policy towards Israel that follows the conventional republican support of the Jewish state. Yet the unrealistic plan the republican advances for such support bypasses conventional norms of world politics and global affairs compromises. Stating that “The United States must forcefully resist the emergence of anti-Israel policies in Turkey and Egypt” or that “The United States must work as a country to resist the worldwide campaign to delegitimize Israel”[3] is an inconsiderate approach to US interests in the region and indeed on the International arena, interests that the Republican strategy undermines in order to empower Israeli policies condemned unacceptable by the world community. Unconditional support to Israel and greater affinity with the new post-revolutionary Arab leadership are mutually exclusive, since advocating for interference and pressure on the Egyptian and Turkish governments through conditional aid and diplomatic stress is not the best way to make good friends with these governments nor with the Arab nations that share similar distrust and cynicism towards the Zionist state.

The events that unraveled in the MENA Region during the 9/11 memorial, the riots against the US embassies and the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi are but few indicators that confirm the necessity for the US foreign policy to balance its support to Israel with friendlier relations with the Arab world, given the Arab mindset that links all pitfalls of the Islamic world on Israeli interference and conspiracies to harm the interests of the glorious Ummah. Thus blind support for Israel, increased military, financial and logistical supplies, or politically incorrect statements about Israeli superior culture and Palestinians lack of interest in peace are ingredients that will make the Middle Eastern soup hard to swallow for US policy makers in case Romney heads forward with his foreign policy plans.

Mitt Romney’s foreign policy strategy, or lack thereof, seems not only to be a personal feature, but a characteristic of the republican campaign as a whole. Paul Rayan, the ambitious republican Vice presidential nominee, asserted in one of his public appearances that “[by projecting] weakness abroad, our adversaries are that much more willing to test us, to question our resolve, and our allies are more
hesitant to trust us”
[4]. Affirming that American weakness is the true motivator of the anti-American tensions unfolding in the Middle East is a narrow appreciation for the politics shaping the Middle Eastern mindset. The tense relations with the Afghan and Pakistani population are not the result of lack of military personnel in the region but the direct outcome of inconsiderate usage of drone attacks on terrorist targets and civilian gatherings. The defiance of China is not the upshot of lack of naval military units in the pacific but the consequence of economic leverage of the Chinese industry. As Obama pointed it out during the last presidential debate when addressing Romney’s call for increased budgetary allowances to the Pentagon, “You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed.” Romney has to redraft the foreign policy of the US not along military quantitative intensification but through diplomatic active performance throughout the Globe in order to achieve what cannot be done through military might. Military intervention in Iran will have devastating effects with only an ephemeral gain to delay Iranian nuclear ambitions, yet active collaboration with world players can coordinate effective economic sanctions that can and are already crippling Iranian financial sector. Todays’ world, today’s distribution of power and today’s multinational ambitions for influence and control render the Reaganesque peace-through-strength obsolete and irrelevant to the dynamics of world affairs. The winner takes it all strategy that Romney intends on pursuing is not realistic given the existence of governments and third parties that are powerful enough to claim their share of the global cake.

Mohamed Amine Belarbi

You can download and consult the PDF Document here:

[1] The Economist, Mitt Romney’s foreign policy Wishful thinking, Lexington, Oct 9th 2012
[2] Official Foreign policy strategy of Mitt Romney,
[3] Official Foreign policy strategy of Mitt Romney,
[4] The Economist, Mitt Romney’s foreign policy Wishful thinking, Lexington, Oct 9th 2012

No comments:

Post a Comment