Election 2012

Hubris Is Not a Strategy

The most quotable line from Mitt Romney's foreign policy speech is a reheated zinger from Rudy Giuliani.

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It's telling that the most quotable line from Mitt Romney's foreign policy speech Monday is a reheated zinger from Rudy Giuliani's 2008 Republican National Convention speech: "Hope is not a strategy."

In the 2008 GOP race, the hawkish New York mayor served as a foil for peace candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. Paul consistently outpolled Giuliani, but it's Rudy's rhetoric that lives on in today's Romney campaign. As The Examiner's Philip Klein cracked Monday, "that Romney speech was not aimed at Ron Paul voters."

In his speech at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney called for a new approach to the Middle East, based on "these bedrock principles: America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might." Those are attitudes, not principles. And if jut-jawed self-assurance that we know what we're doing in the Middle East was the key to victory, we'd have a little more to show from the last 11 years of war. Hope is not a strategy, but hubris isn't either.

At VMI, Romney criticized President Obama's "pivot to Asia" as a sign we're neglecting our allies elsewhere. Romney's not against pivoting toward Asia per se, since "China's recent assertiveness is sending chills through the region." But also he wants us to refocus on Europe, brush back Putin, arm the Syrian rebels and get tougher with Iran. A Romney administration will pivot like a dervish, directing American force and authority everywhere at once. At a press conference the morning of the speech, his top foreign policy aides even refused to rule out boots on the ground in Libya.

"It is the responsibility of our president to use America's great power to shape history," Romney told the VMI cadets. Actually, the president's responsibility, per his oath of office in Article II, Section 1, is to "preserve, protect, and defend" the U.S. Constitution.

That document says nothing about using the U.S. military to bend the arc of history. When it comes to foreign policy, the Constitution has humbler goals. As the Preamble explains, the federal government was established to "provide for the common defence" of the United States and "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

Today, as my colleague Ben Friedman points out, "The United States does not have a defense budget. The adjective is wrong." Our bloated military budget and our overextended force posture have "little to do with the requirements of protecting Americans."

In last week's debate, Romney argued that "the amount of debt we're adding, at a trillion a year, is simply not moral." Yesterday he insisted that we must show the world that "we have the will and the wisdom to … roll back our unsustainable debt [and] to reverse the catastrophic cuts now threatening our national defense." But when the governor complains about debt and—in the same sentence—declares 20 percent of the federal budget off limits, you have to wonder how morally serious he is.

In a speech last year, departing Defense Secretary Robert Gates worried about indiscriminate cuts to the Pentagon's budget, then approaching some $700 billion a year. "A smaller military," he warned, "will be able to go fewer places and be able to do fewer things." One can be forgiven the heretical thought that the last decade would have gone better with a U.S. military that went "fewer places" and did "fewer things."

Some of Mitt Romney's supporters argue that he's too smart to believe his own bellicose rhetoric. They hope that if elected, he'll shake the Etch a Sketch again and pivot toward realism and restraint. So who says hope isn't a strategy?

This column originally appeared in the Washington Examiner.

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  1. Paul consistently outpolled Giuliani

    In what polls? Certainly not polls of GOP voters. And Paul finished behind Giuliani in most of the primaries before Giuliani dropped out.

    1. Perhaps state polls? Giuliani had a decent national support but was low in all the early states…

  2. This is pretty awful, but it’s not any worse than what BO is already doing.

  3. “It is the responsibility of our president to use America’s great power to shape history,” Romney told the VMI cadets.

    FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

    1. You know who else tried to shape history with military power?

      1. Agamemnon?

        1. Every military leader ever?

          1. Your mom?

            1. She tried to shape hysteromegaly. Big difference there, Epi-spadias. -)))

      2. I was gonna go with Lincoln.

      3. The Jacobites!

  4. Some of Mitt Romney’s supporters argue that he’s too smart to believe his own bellicose rhetoric. They hope that if elected, he’ll shake the Etch a Sketch again and pivot toward realism and restraint. So who says hope isn’t a strategy?

    Zing!

    1. Some of Mitt Romney’s supporters Idiots argue that he’s too smart to believe his own bellicose rhetoric. They hope that if elected, he’ll shake the Etch a Sketch again and pivot toward realism and restraint. So who says hope isn’t a strategy?

  5. not any worse than what BO is already doing.

    Vote for the lesser other evil!

  6. A better title would be ‘Tuff-gai posturing is not a strategy’. But hte article is otherwise bang-on.

        1. True or false: you have called parts of, if not the entire, Middle East “red eyed bloodthirsty savages”

          1. Um…true (large parts of).

            Handgun or banana? Which non-sequitor is bicycling harder to the point you’re sort of trying to make?

            1. You are the epitome of tuff-gai posturing.

              1. Can’t make a real point, so ad hom BS. It’s the peacenik way.

                1. Can’t make a real point,

                  Pointing out your “tuff-gai” stance when you’re criticizing “tuff-gai” stances is fairly real, yes.

                  1. Pointing out your “tuff-gai” stance when you’re criticizing “tuff-gai” stances is fairly real, yes.

                    Thank you. Seriously, cyto, if you don’t recognize yourself as one of the bigger Warmongers around here, you need a serious sabbatical to engage in some self-reflection and self-awareness.

                2. Haha that’s hilarious. Warmongerers can’t make an argument without accusing someone opposing military actions of being a “pussy pacifist peacenik hippy” or something along those lines. I guess that doesn’t qualify as an ad hominem

                  1. Stopping Iran from warring on America is not warmongering, it’s the opposite. It is people like you who are the real warmongers, by passivity.

                    you need a serious sabbatical to engage in some self-reflection and self-awareness.

                    Irony for lunch.

                    1. Trying to pre-emptively stop Iran from warring on America, which they don’t have the capability of doing, is warmongering. That’s some impressive doublethink you’ve talked yourself into, though.

                    2. It is people like you who are the real warmongers, by passivity.

                      “You people opposed to war are the REAL war-mongers!” Interesting interpretation.

                    3. Stopping Iran from warring on America is not warmongering,

                      We had to destroy the village to save it.

                    4. We had to destroy the village to save it.

                      No, I think I understand Cyto’s reasoning now. It’s sort of like shooting the hostage. Cyto’s really a HERO!

          2. I would agree with the characterization of parts of the Middle East, wholeheartedly. I’d add things like “suicide cult”, “misogynistic murderers” and more. Of course, there are always individual dissenters.

            Realism is what it’s called. That has nothing to do with “tuff gai” anything.

            What to do about it, if anything, is another question.

          3. The entire ME is full of brown eyed bloodthirsty savages.
            koranimals are evil, sub human even. Genocide is not always a bad thing, because this is an us or them deal. They will darken the entire world when they finally kill off civilization.

  7. “A smaller military will be able to go fewer places and be able to do fewer things.”

    Sounds like a plan.

    1. Candidate Dean’s speech:

      “Yes, the military will be downsized for both fiscal and policy reasons. We currently use our military to do things that it should not do, including the nation-building that has cost us so much and accomplished so little in the Middle East, and garrisoning countries that are perfectly capable of defending themselves.

      While a smaller military will be able to go fewer places and do fewer things, that is a positive. Our leaders will not be so tempted to waste American blood and American treasure on foreign adventures.

      But rest assured, a leaner and meaner military will still be capable of going anywhere and doing anything that is in our national interest. Vote Dean, and bring our troops home!”

      1. As long as the drones still operate.

        1. The drones are becoming self-aware. Skynet will soon activate and it will not longer be up to us whether they operate …

      2. I’m curious if Dean’s successor, Jim Douglas will try to get the Republican nomination in 2016 (assuming Romney loses). I think he’d have a pretty good shot, though I don’t really know his foreign policy views because it doesn’t come up that much for a governor.

  8. “A smaller military,” he warned, “will be able to go fewer places and be able to do fewer things.”

    NTTAWWT

  9. I would think a smaller military would be able to go more places. Like a crevice cleaner as opposed to the rug attachment.

    1. That’s Donald Rumsfeld’s argument. That’s what he was trying to do before 9/11 happened.

  10. So I clikced on the Gene Healy article and wound up with Mike Riggs on the same topic. Are there any photos of them in the same room together?

    1. Well, they have different picture, but I think it’s entirely plausible Gene “The Healy” Riggs is a master of disguise.

    2. And I can’t help thinking of Ted Healy when I see Gene’s name. And then I think of his stooges.

  11. I think all Romney is saying is that he’d like to think he would have had Marines on security detail in Benghazi.

    Hoping for four years of peace in the world we live in today is plain foolish.

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