Why is U.S. Foreign Policy Only Going to Get Worse?


The short answer: Because either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama is going to win in November.

Brush aside the brutally stupid and irrelevant press and politico chatter about whether it was right for Romney to criticize Obama regarding recent attacks on U.S. personnel in Libya and Egypt and whether it's honorable for Obama to party with Jay Z and Beyonce instead of rending his garments and wandering the White House chanting prayers for the dead.

That's theater, folks, and theater of the quality you might see at the Club Bene in South Amboy, New Jersey. It's the sort of bullshit that the press and political operatives love to talk about because absolutely nothing real is on the line. I know, because I spent a good chunk of last night doing exactly that.

The reality of not just the failure but the absence of anything resembling a coherent foreign policy emanating from either major-party candidate is staggering and dispiriting.

Romney is untested when it comes to conducting foreign policy and all indications are that he has little to no ideas about the subject. That is, apart from barking banal slogans such as "peace through strength," asserting that we should never apologize for American "values," and warning that defense spending needs to be jacked even higher despite a 70 percent-plus rise over the past dozen years. He has been quicker than lightning to criticize the bomb-and-drone-happy Obama for archetypal McGovernite "weakness" while offering no serious alternative. That his foreign policy team is heavy with George W. Bush retreads should be terrifying not just to other countries but to our children and grandchildren, who will bear the brunt of any repeats of Bush's manifest failures. All this and poorly guarded embassies and consulates will get you a bunch of dead bodies in far-flung, exotic locations around the globe.

For his part, Barack Obama has been tested and found wanting in ways large and small. Start with the small: His comments about whether Egypt is an "ally" or a client state with benefits show a leader who is lost in space and has little to no understanding of his role as leader of the United States. If the Arab Spring revolts turn into anything other than the turn in the continuing death spiral of the broadly defined Middle East, it will be no thanks to an administration that backed Mubarak until the very last minute, pushed to keep U.S. troops in Iraq after a withdrawal plan agreed upon under George W. Bush, and unconstitutionally joined a bombing campaign in Libya while dithering over actions in Syria. And alienated Israel. And tripled troops in Afghanistan to pursue a mission whose objectives still remain unclear even to the people who are carrying them out. It was a big applause line at the Democratic National Convention that "Osama Bin Laden is dead and GM is alive." What a sad, cheap sentiment the portends even more disastrous actions if Obama wins re-election.

It remains a harsh fact that Americans gets the government we deserve. Well, when it comes to foreign policy, even the least-worthy among us deserve better than the lack of foreign policy projected by President Obama and Gov. Romney. We've got about two months before one of them is declared the next president of the United States. Let's do what we can to demand that they articulate a clear, prinicpled vision of America's role in the world, especially as it relates to armed conflicts that we ourselves have started, prolonged, or parachuted into. Is it so hard to ask these guys what are the principles they think should govern military intervention, defense spending, trade agreements, and more?

At least then we might evaluate what they stand for before heading into the ballot box and experiencing the existential despair that wells up in the body politic every four years.