Mitt Romney’s Foreign Policy Speech: More of the Same, But Better, Stronger, More Expensive

Mitt Romney spoke at the Virginia Military Institute today in what was billed a major foreign policy address. The Obama campaign responded preemptively by painting Mitt Romney’s foreign policy as both to the right of Bush’s and not that different from the president’s own. Romney’s address touched on most of the parts of the world American foreign policy does. Despite efforts to bring daylight between his foreign policy and the president’s, Romney’s differences lay largely in rhetoric and in results; where Obama has failed to achieve certain foreign policy goals, Romney says he’d succeed.

Romney recounted the terrorist attack on the consulate in Benghazi on 9/11, saying it was not an “isolated incident,” but rather accompanied the protests at and assaults on U.S. embassies around the Muslim world. The interpretation is a lot more rooted in reality than the Obama Administration’s, which insisted anti-American outbursts on and after 9/11, including initially the Benghazi attack, were attributable entirely to an anti-Muslim film whose trailer was found on YouTube. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice insisted on Sunday talk shows the week of the Benghazi attack that it was precipitated by the film even as the FBI was trying to get there. The strategy led the president and his subordinates down a road that attacked free speech even as it tried to defend it.

Romney, instead, places the Benghazi attack on the “fault lines” of a struggle between democrats and extremists in the Muslim world, matching the rhetoric and ideological underpinnings of the Bush foreign policy. Bush’s 2004 inauguration speech laid out a similar foreign policy vision that saw America as a steadfast ally of democrats the world over. Palestinian elections in 2006, which saw Hamas victorious, showed that sometimes the democrats can be extremists, but more importantly, in a lesson repeated during the Arab Spring, that democratically-elected governments may not always be ones of which America’s foreign policy establishment approves.

Of course, America’s preferences for foreign government are a bit more than that so long as America remains a primary foreign aid spender. Romney knows this, placing specific requirements on U.S. foreign aid recipients: “they must meet the responsibilities of every decent modern government—to respect the rights of all of their citizens, including women and minorities, to ensure space for civil society, a free media, political parties, and an independent judiciary, and to abide by their international commitments to protect our diplomats and our property.” The last bit is an expectation of any country that hosts the diplomatic facilities of another. Romney mentions aid to Egypt specifically, promising to use America’s influence to maintain its peace treaty with Israel (upon which U.S. aid is already theoretically contingent). If money hasn’t bought friends yet, Romney’s thinking seems to go, more money will buy them.

On Iran, Romney continued beating the war drums, claiming Iran’s never been closer to a nuclear weapon. He insisted Obama’s attempt to bring “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel a “dangerous situation,” helping bring Iran the closest it’s been to getting a bomb since sometime around 2007. President Obama’s daylight comment came in 2009; the president said eight years of an airtight relationship between George Bush and Ariel Sharon and then Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime ministers then. Notably, while George W. Bush was the first American president to endorse a Palestinian state and a two-state solution, today both Obama and Romney support it. The Israeli prime minister for the entirety of Obama’s term, meanwhile, has been Benjamin Netanyahu, who spent the last month demanding a red line be drawn for an Iranian nuclear program he claims is just months from weaponization. Israelis themselves have shrugged off his warnings, interpreting them as a bluff meant to pressure the U.S. into action. Shaul Mofaz, the leader of Kadima, the main opposition party to Netanyahu’s government, asked whether the prime minister was more interested in ousting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, or Obama. Netanyahu and Romney have been friends for years.

Romney blamed Obama’s failure to extend the war in Iraq for the continuing violence there, attacked a timeline for withdrawal that’s much murkier than advertised, but not the lack of a mission there, and bundled Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria as “fights for liberty,” in the course making the case for more intervention in Syria and accusing Obama of “leading from behind” there. The president, in fact, signed off on covert support this summer and Western intervention has already been blamed for deepening the conflict there.

Romney’s one reference to President Obama’s due process-smashing drone war in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan was that they were “important tools” but “no substitute for a national security strategy for the Middle East.” In fact, Romney pointed out that Al-Qaeda forces “remain strong” in Yemen and Somalia, where the local Islamists became an Al-Qaeda affiliate after years of U.S.-backed intervention.

No Romney speech on foreign policy would be complete without an attack on non-existent cuts to defense spending (“deep and arbitrary” and “catastrophic”) and a promise to reverse them. The cuts, of course, are just reductions in the rate of spending. Refusing to acknowledge the reality of rising defense spending cuts doesn’t bode well for actual reform and spending reductions.  America “cannot afford four more years like the last four,” Romney said, but not referring to the mounting fiscal costs. In fact, he insists the world wants more from the United States, that America’s “friends and allies across the globe do not want less American leadership. They want more—more of our moral support, more of our security cooperation, more of our trade, and more of our assistance in building free societies and thriving economies.” The appeal to trade is stark; Romney noted the U.S. hasn’t signed any new free trade agreements during Obama’s presidency and promised to be a champion of free trade himself. No such luck on the intervention front, where Romney acknowledged and then dismissed any concerns: “I know many Americans are asking… “Why us?” I know many Americans are asking whether our country today—with our ailing economy, and our massive debt, and after 11 years at war—is still capable of leading.” The world, in Romney’s vision, depends on it. 

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  • Sevo||

    Gee, I usually try to keep the OT comments until the T get some discussion, but WTH...
    Tech substitutes for taxis get the ax in CA: "State regulators have issued cease-and-desist orders against two more firms that bill themselves as high-tech alternatives to the way taxi companies usually operate."
    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/.....927193.php
    The comments are, well, predictable. Sample: "The problem with this libertarian argument is that all developed countries operate this way."
    See, all the cool kids don't do it that way...

  • PapayaSF||

    Actually, at least at the moment, the top-rated comments are skewing quite libertarian.

  • Sevo||

    "Romney’s differences lay largely in rhetoric and in results; where Obama has failed to achieve certain foreign policy goals, Romney says he’d succeed."

    Looks like there's no reason for discussion: Vote Oromney for more of the same!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Holy shite, are you deef? Romney's foreign policy is going to succeed. There's your difference.

  • Sevo||

    Shucks! Missed that part!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I accept your apology.

  • Ted Levy||

    "Mitt Romney’s Foreign Policy Speech: More of the Same, But Better, Stronger, More Expensive"

    What, you didn't want to go for "Mitt Romney’s Foreign Policy Speech: More of the Same, But Bigger, Stronger, and Uncut"?

  • nicole||

    Circumcision thread time?

  • Hugh Akston||

    I can't take any mohel!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Cut that out.

  • ||

    You truly are a monster, you know that?

  • Killazontherun||

    This is usually the part where the rat gets up on Pastis desk and threatens his life.

  • ||

    Cut is the only proper penis configuration.

  • juris imprudent||

    There's just no end, is there?

  • ||

    OK, that was funny.

  • Tman||

    Mitt could win a lot of fans from the libertarian side if he supported Rand Paul's bill to cut off foreign aid to hostile nations.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Look, if we cut off foreign aid to hostile nations, then how are they going to impoverish their people and buy weapons to become a regional threat that must be dealt with militarily by the international community (ie the US)?

  • ||

    Not wanting an empire is for dorks.

  • Sevo||

    I wear dork glasses. Does that count?

  • ||

    Are you all pumped up on dorkosterone?

  • nicole||

    More fun than circumcision, puns, or foreign policy? Andrew Sullivan (since it got stuck at the end of the Pew Poll thread, I cross-post, bitchez). He's flipping out, and it's so yummy.

  • Hugh Akston||

    That column contains 110% of the recommended daily allowance of Salty Ham Tears.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I agree, that was pretty awesome.

  • Sevo||

    My goodness! "devastating, just devastating."
    Didn't one of his handlers figure out that absent the teleprompter, their guy didn't have a clue as to what to say?
    I mean, didn't anyone actually sit him down and toss a couple of non-friendly questions at him?

  • ||

    Does Sullivan live in the same dimension we do? Wait, I know what it is, he reports from the Mirror Universe where Obama has a goatee and isn't a shitheel. That has to be the explanation.

  • Hugh Akston||

    That would explain why he thinks Romney wants to cut taxes, reduce government spending, and gut Medicare and Social Security. Also why he thinks Romney could possibly beat Obama's imperialist foreign policy.

  • Calidissident||

    I wouldn't doubt that last part. I thought Obama couldn't beat Bush's imperialist foreign policy and I was proven wrong. I expect President Romney to double down on the awfulness

  • AlmightyJB||

    "I expect President Romney to double down on the awfulness"

    Yeah, I think the crew at Weekly Standard already gave him a list of countries to invade.

  • Heedless||

    Actually, it was a list of countries. It to invade.

    Shorter.

  • ||

    Only possible explanation. I'm glad I thought of it. And also since it made me think of Barbara Luna.

  • Hugh Akston||

    D-does she have a goatee too?

  • ||

    It's more of a Hitler mustache.

  • Killazontherun||

    Well, so long as she stays attractive.

  • AlmightyJB||

    You know who else had a Hitler mustache.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    John Hillerman?

  • SIV||

    G. Gordon Liddy?

  • PapayaSF||

    Ron Mael?

  • ||

    Sullivan's name for the photo, at the bottom of the page: "Obama as he imploded".

  • A Serious Man||

    At least he's not in denial like the people that think Obama was playing "rope-a-dope" with Romney like Muahmmed Ali.

  • nicole||

    Yes, I was at least reasonably pleased that he was pretty much taking Obama to task for fucking up. I mean, as much as anyone is going to. And the tweet, the poor little tweet: "I'm sorry if these are not things an Obama supporter should say at this point. But the demoralization is profound."

    I almost want to pick him up and dust him off or something. But then I remember that he is nuts and that I love Salty Ham Tears.

  • Hugh Akston||

    On the plus side, if Obama loses, he will finally have some time to spend alone with Sullivan.

  • PapayaSF||

    Been reading the undernews, have we?

  • Sevo||

    BTW, Romney has to get Eastwood to show up at the next debate with that damn chair.
    Couldn't ask for a better metaphor.

  • Mike M.||

    "Flipping"? That ship sailed years ago, and has already gone around the world a few times.

  • ||

    A few things immediately stand out to me here:

    And after Romney's convincing Etch-A-Sketch, convincing because Obama was incapable of exposing it, Romney is now the centrist candidate, even as he is running to head up the most radical party in the modern era.

    Hahahahaha. If only. Also, plenty of "Romney is a filthy dishonest lying liar who lies and lies and lies" without actually getting into that minor business of what those lies were.

    And, to finally top it off, a June 2011 The Palin Emails story is apparently the top or one of the top trending stories on The Daily Beast.

  • nicole||

    It's an interesting and bizarre application of the Overton Window. I don't usually care much for theories that the electorate is more polarized now than ever; I just find it historically unlikely. But I do think we see an extent to which progressives have moved their Overton Window, while the right...not so much. It's hard to think of anything more radical about them than they were ten years ago or so. But "opposition to free birth control" has now, for progressives, assumed the place of things like "pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control prescriptions." Hence, the most radical party in the modern era.

  • PapayaSF||

    And of course, the trope: "Today's Republicans are so radical, not like the nice ones who are all safely dead now" is perennial from Democrats.

  • Sevo||

    PapayaSF| 10.8.12 @ 11:48PM |#
    "And of course, the trope: "Today's Republicans are so radical, not like the nice ones who are all safely dead now" is perennial from Democrats."

    Yes, just like partisanship is now ascendant!
    Mr. Taft and Mr. Truman might not agree, as would Mr. Nixon,

  • PapayaSF||

    And, of course, the unspoken assumption that today's Democratic party is as filled with moderates as it ever was.

  • Lisa||

    As far as the gender gap narrowing goes, maybe some of the "women" supporting Obama realized they were men during the debate as soon as Romney started dominating the moderator. I'm picturing something like the monkey scene in 2001,with remote controls instead of bones.

  • SIV||

    Romney is now the centrist candidate, even as he is running to head up the most radical party in the modern era.

    This is how the left steers the libertarian-leaning vote to the GOP. They say those dangerous rightwingers want to repeal the New Deal and the only crumbs of voters left for the LP are socially inept colloidal silver-swilling pot heads

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Not even Jon Gruden could get excited about this foreign policy

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    He insisted Obama’s attempt to bring “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel a “dangerous situation,”

    He ought to think twice about letting an "ally" decide for him when to take the country to war. That's a great way for the U.S. to end up with its pecker stuck in a woodchipper.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    You know who else got his pecker stuck in a woodchipper...

  • ||

    Steve Buscemi?

  • ||

    Assuming his pecker went in before the leg.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    Romney's FP positions are horrible for the most part, but they're probably going to be no worse than BO's in practice. One benefit of having Romney in the White House is that the antiwar movement might experience a rebirth and the media will suddenly start paying attention to the horrors committed in the name of security.

  • sloopyinca||

    Yes, Tulpa, let's vote for a shitty candidate in the hopes that the media will hold him accountable.

    Jesus Christ. You say almost nothing positive about Romney yet you're actually spending your free time working to get the man elected. Have some principles, for the love of God.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    That's not the only reason to vote for him. FP is where he's weak. The economy is where he's strong (as well as civil rights like the 2nd amendment).

    I'm just saying even in his weakest areas there is some upside. More than Greg Little anyhow.

  • juris imprudent||

    Romney, 2nd Amdt? Strength?

    WTF are you smoking/drinking/snorting?

  • sloopyinca||

    "Turd Sandwich!: Because who would vote for a Giant Douche?"

  • Mike M.||

    Too bad the fake antiwar movement and the media have no credibility left.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I heard about 3 minutes of this speech while I was in the cafe at lunch today. I actually thought it sounded really good. One thing that H*squirrel*R folks should like is that he called out Obama for blaming the 9/11 embassy attacks on the youtube video.

  • sloopyinca||

    Memphis, TN Cop operating a vehicle with a suspended license, runs into a marked cop car and gets a paid vacation as his reward. Also, he's not arrested or taken to jail for driving on a suspended license.

    But there's no double-standard, is there?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Do people normally get arrested for driving without a license (first offense)? I'd assume that was a fine/longer suspension.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    I know insurance won't cover you if your driving while suspended and have an accident.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    "you're driving"

  • sloopyinca||

    Haha. Jeter with his second (only charged for 1) error of the game. He seems like a cool guy, but he's a lousy shortstop.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Does he still take a timeout before every pitch?

    Love his house.

  • Virginian||

    Look man, sometimes the five World Series rings makes handling the ball a little difficult ok?

  • sloopyinca||

    Then what's A-Rod's excuse? Does the Astroglide fuck up his throwing hand that much?

  • Virginian||

    Little known fact: A-Rod is a big Ron Paul guy, so he demanded his 275 million dollars in gold. While stacking the bars into a miniature house, he dropped one on his throwing hand. Hasn't been the same since.

  • ||

    A-Rod sucks, full-stop. And I say that as a Yankees fan. Fuck A-Rod.

  • Virginian||

    Over 600 home runs, damn near 2000 RBIs, 2800 or so hits last time I checked.

    Wish I could suck that bad.

  • ||

    And yet he always manages to suck when it matters. Struck out a full quarter of his at-bats this season and frequently hits into double plays. 1 for 7 so far in the post. Maybe it's confirmation bias, but he always seems to blow it in the clutch.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    He's so bad he makes the Jets suck

  • TheSpiteHouse||

    //guffaw

  • ||

    Make that 1 for 8.

  • Virginian||

    He played great in the 09 postseason. He's no Jeter in the fall, though he's nowhere near as bad as people make him out to be, but without his slugging in the regular season it's not a sure thing that there is October baseball in NYC.

  • sloopyinca||

    OW, my balls! Rugby edition.

  • sloopyinca||

    Nevermind. It's Rugby League, not Rugby Union, therefore, nobody cares.

  • juris imprudent||

    I'm guessing Warty might be into League - but that's just a guess.

  • Sevo||

    Sorta like Tulpa's Robama pitch?

  • Sevo||

    Checking the Chron's Obama report...
    "He spoke for eight minutes before the pool was ushered out and he took questions from those who paid $20,000 a person"
    Well in scanning the remainder, there is nothing a Chi-town ward healer wouldn't have said. Read it if you prefer boredom:
    http://blog.sfgate.com/ (incomplete since Reason squirrels are not real bright; try Politic blog at SF gate)
    Oh, and the reporter really doesn't look anything like the 'shopped image. My wife's golfing buddy is better looking. After 18 holes.

  • PapayaSF||

    It's amusing that he is asking his San Francisco supporters to be "obsessive." In my experience, they don't need to be told.

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