How Romney Understands Foreign Policy: Like a Corporate Consultant

Aside from vague calls for strength, resolve, and ensuring America’s permanent spot at the top of the global dog pile, Mitt Romney hasn’t offered much insight into his foreign policy views. One way to understand his approach to foreign policy is that it’s all political pandering: He’s against bad people, and voting for Obama. This view makes some sense in the context of his ill-advised late night statement attacking President Obama following riots in Egypt and Libya. The Romney campaign’s first instinct, it seems, was to repackage the event as a quick, simplistic political attack.  

It also suggests that Romney can be understood as something of a conventional GOP hawk. That's probably true to some extent. But I think it's a bit of a mistake to try to lump Romney wholly into any common foreign policy camp. Instead, I suspect the best way to describe how Romney understands foreign policy is that he thinks about it like a corporate consultant, with America, and its unique business model, competing with the rest of the world’s nations for dominance in the global marketplace. He wants America to be number one just like a CEO wants his company to be number one. Indeed, he sees this leadership as a crucial part of America’s brand. America has established itself as the market leader, and that's a valuable feature of its product line. 

This is exactly how Romney discusses America’s place in the world in his 2010 book, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. As I wrote in my March magazine feature on Romney:

No Apology can be “understood as a sort of corporate strategy document. Except instead of focusing on a particular business, it offers a strategic vision for all of America. 

No Apology opens with a survey of the marketplace for global power. Romney describes the “four strategies to achieve world power.” There’s the Chinese strategy based on free enterprise and authoritarian rule, the Russian strategy based on energy authoritarianism, the Iranian strategy of violent jihad, and the American strategy, which prizes economic and political freedom. The presentation-ready, four-part schema all but conjures up a drop-down projection screen and laser pointer.

Romney outlines these countries’ operational strengths and weaknesses, their core missions and their potential as threats to the client’s front-runner status. Jihadism is a “strategy based on conquest and compulsion”; the Chinese are “an enormously practical and intelligent people,” but they lack the “rule of law and regulation that shapes free enterprise elsewhere”; Russia’s power is based on “energy and commodities” as well as “the strength of its science and technology sectors.” Later in the book, Romney widens his scope to examine industrial effectiveness in other countries, such as Japan, citing consultant’s reports on international differences in productivity.

Seen through Romney’s eyes, these are America’s competitors, each with its own business model and product line, organizational theories and distribution channels. He seems to conceive of his job as proposing a strategic vision that will help America compete and retain its position as global market leader. 

In Romney’s view, many of the world’s nations are not our neighbors, but our competitors, fighting for the same market share that America is trying to win. That implies a certain level of aggressiveness. And to hear Romney tell it, President Obama hasn’t been aggressive enough. As Michael Barbaro notes at The New York Times, Romney’s book also made a point of criticizing President Obama for reaching out to America’s “enemies,” and expressing sympathy toward their plight. To Romney, that's a firing offense.

The idea seems to be: You don’t coddle competitors, you beat them. And you certainly don’t ever back down when they challenge you. Which may explain why Romney, despite facing widespread criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for his response last night, chose to double down on that criticism this morning by repeating attacks on Obama—who, after all, is currently Romney’s chief competitor.

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  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    The idea seems to be: You don’t coddle competitors, you beat them. And you certainly don’t ever back down when they challenge you.

    I think it could be argued pretty effectively that this is exactly how certain factions and cultures need to be treated in order to gain any kind of respect or fear from them. Coddling is seen as weakness, not an attempt to see their side.

  • BarryD||

    And, while this may be put in business buzzwords, I fail to see what's wrong with it.

    "When they challenge you" does not imply aggression or the initiation of force.

    Unless someone is a hard-core (in my view suicidal) pacifist, I can't see where many would have a problem with this in a President.

    I believe in the separation of church and state, which includes our country not forcing us all to be Quakers.

  • Alien Invader||

    But what about a media and educational system that tries to brainwash us all into being liberals? Isn't that okay?

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    If you understood how core competencies frame the synergies of empowered teams, and right-sized the client-centered hierarchical infrastucture, you'd understand that Mittens is success-centric in the cloud of a target-rich environment.

    Sheesh.

  • Rhywun||

    Bravo. Thanks for making me feel like I'm looking over my shoulder at work instead of... not doing that in the comfort of my home.

  • ||

    I haven't heard what Romney said, nor do I want to, but "not backing down" in this context should mean, "The federal government is not allowed by the Constitution to control the religious speech of its citizens, no matter how inflammatory that speech is. We will not -- we can not -- change that policy."

  • ||

    We will not -- we can not

    For emphasis, it should be the other way around, I think.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    And Suderman again with the understated, yet spot on Alt Text.

    *golf clap*

  • R C Dean||

    After the TelePrompter-in-Chief, the PowerPoint-in-Chief may look like a step up.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    There's a reason PPT is popular.

  • BarryD||

    I've seen the best and the worst presentations done in PPT.

  • Nephi||

    Yeah, I could go for that.

  • T o n y||

    Is it natural for CEO types to change opinions about nearly everything at such a frequency as to seem pathologically unprincipled? Or is that just Romney?

  • BarryD||

    No, Sparkle Tony. It's natural for CEO types to look for what is and isn't working, and respond accordingly.

    That's something Obama, who has never been judged according to his actual performance, has no clue about.

    And I don't even LIKE Romney.

  • ||

    And I don't even LIKE Romney.

    Tony brings out the worst in everyone.

    By the way Tony supported US intervention in Libya.

    He is covering more then TEAM BLUE. He is also covering the failures of his warmongering.

  • T o n y||

    Oh, so "my opinion on abortion isn't working for this election, so I need to change it." or "My opinion on healthcare reform isn't working for this election, so I need to change it," or [repeat for every single issue you can possibly imagine]?

  • ||

    I am only guessing the point you are making here.

    But yes you need to change your opinion about Obama's wars.

    It is vile.

    I could give a shit about the election. In fact I am almost positive Romney's wars and support of them will also be vile.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • Tman||

    Why Americans hate foreign policy-

    "Americans hate foreign policy. Americans hate foreign policy because Americans hate foreigners. Americans hate foreigners because Americans are foreigners. We all come from foreign lands, even if we came 10,000 years ago on a land bridge across the Bering Strait.

    America is not "globally conscious" or "multi-cultural." Americans didn't come to America to be Limey Poofters, Frog-Eaters, Bucket Heads, Micks, Spicks, Sheenies or Wogs. If we'd wanted foreign entanglements, we would have stayed home. Or - in the case of those of us who were shipped to America against our will - as slaves, exiles, or transported prisoners - we would have gone back.

    Being foreigners ourselves, we Americans know what foreigners are up to with their foreign policy - their venomous convents, lying alliances, greedy agreements and trick-or-treaties. America is not a wily, sneaky nation. We don't think that way.

    We don't think much at all, thank God. Start thinking and pretty soon you get ideas, and then you get idealism, and the next thing you know you've got ideology, with millions dead in concentration camps and gulags. A fundamental American question is: "What's the big idea?"

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/com.....olicy.html

  • Almanian 1||

    That's fucking awesome! Thanks for the link, too.

  • Virginian||

    PJ O'Rourke is quite simply my favorite political writer.

  • Nephi||

    Which may explain why Romney, despite facing widespread criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for his response last night, chose to double down on that criticism

    It's also consistent with his refusal to release tax returns. You don't let the other guy set the rules.

  • pmains||

    I don't see why he should, anyway. You're just providing the other side with thousands of pages of oppo research. I'm sure a team of tax attorneys prepared it. There's probably much that can be misrepresented and very little that's relevant to the race. It's just childish for Obama to try to bait him into it.

    It reminds of when the press kept asking George W., "come one, what's your biggest mistake?" Like he was supposed to write the political ads for them.

    As I recall, though, Obama answered that by saying, "I haven't sufficiently conveyed to the American people how awesome I am."

  • ||

    I don't see why he should, anyway.

    Yeah. It is pretty damn important for a political opponent of the fucking commander in chief of the USA to be free to criticize foreign policy.

    Sudderman dropped the ball on this one and gave it to TEAM BOMB CHILDREN FOR AMERCIA.

    You can completely disagree with every foreign policy bone in Romney's body and see that.

  • pmains||

    I meant, "I don't see why he should release his tax returns, anyway." Was that not clear?

  • ||

    Which may explain why Romney, despite facing widespread criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for his response last night

    I do not recall widespread criticism of Obama in 2008 when he criticized Bush over the Iraq and Afghanistan war.

    I probably disagree with Romney on the specifics of his criticism. I won't even check. I just assume.

    Still to think the backlash is anything but Obama and his allies campaigning is pretty naive.

  • Not an Economist||

    Considering the Obama administration said something similar about the embassy statement I'm not sure what the problem is either.

    The ambassador is the official representative of the United States in Egypt and he runs the embassy. President Obama is the elected leader of the United States. It follows, at least to me, that any statement put out by the embassy is the official position of the United States. So it should be reasonable to criticize the administration when one of its subordinates screws up.

  • BarryD||

    I haven't seen widespread criticism from Republicans, either.

  • BarryD||

    ...nor would I want to.

  • Cyto||

    Yeah, I think that sentence is just plain silly. All you need to explain why Romney is criticizing the President's response is "they are in the middle of an election". Of course they are going to criticize every little thing about each other.

    Do you really expect Romney to say, "Wow, great job Mr. President. I think you handled that perfectly?" Do you really expect Obama to say "you know what, Romney is right. I really screwed up on the economy and jobs. He's much better than I am on job creation - just look at his work with Bain on Staples."

    Yeah, not gonna happen.

    And all you need to explain Romney's vagueness on policy is to take a look at Obama 2008. The guy ran as a rorschach test and won easily. Why on earth would you put up any specifics on anything after that.

  • BarryD||

    Furthermore, where Obama did give specifics, it's being used against him.

    He damn well deserves it, because he was either lying, or totally incompetent, or both. But still, from a political perspective, you don't want to give the other side free ammo.

  • Cyto||

    Yeah, I think that sentence is just plain silly. All you need to explain why Romney is criticizing the President's response is "they are in the middle of an election". Of course they are going to criticize every little thing about each other.

    Do you really expect Romney to say, "Wow, great job Mr. President. I think you handled that perfectly?" Do you really expect Obama to say "you know what, Romney is right. I really screwed up on the economy and jobs. He's much better than I am on job creation - just look at his work with Bain on Staples."

    Yeah, not gonna happen.

    And all you need to explain Romney's vagueness on policy is to take a look at Obama 2008. The guy ran as a rorschach test and won easily. Why on earth would you put up any specifics on anything after that.

  • snorkeldogg||

    New Obama video on youtube compares words to actions - 415,000 views in 8 days and over 700 comments. See at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8R5GvwUFU8

  • Stormy Dragon||

    “Fredo, you’re my older brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever.”

  • DRM||

    The only ill-advised part of the statement was that Romney made it when the entire press corps is sucking Obama's cock.

    Pretending that the guy who appointed the US Ambassador to Egypt isn't responsible for said ambassador's statements is asinine. Does Anne Woods Patterson, who serves at the pleasure of the President, still have her job as Ambassador? Then Obama's still fucking standing behind the statement she made as an official representative of the United States.

    That subsequent statements even mentioned the movie-that-might-not-even-exist is just more of the same shit (unless it had been confined 100% to the defense of the movie), proving that, in fact, the administration does support Ambassador Patterson's view that the U.S. Government should be in the business of condemning the exercise of free speech by U.S. citizens. (And no, it's not goddamned okay that the Bush Administration made the same kind of statements. It just means Bush was unfit to be President.)

  • Jocon307||

    "The only ill-advised part of the statement was that Romney made it when the entire press corps is sucking Obama's cock."

    God bless you for that T.R.U.T.H.

  • ||

    America, frak yeah

    You forgot the "c".

  • ||

    Maybe he was going for some Battlestar Galactica reference.

  • ||

    Corporations trade all the time. Most do not compete at all but simply inhabit different industries. McDonalds does not compete with Google for example.

    Suderman's central premise seems to rely more on stereotypes then anything of substance.

    In the real world the US government has anti-trust laws to insure corporations compete.

    The fact that the narrative relies on stereotypes that resemble left wing critiques of capitalism rather then a libertarian critique is telling.

    What the fuck is going on here Peter?

  • alessiothepally||

  • alessiothepally||

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