Election 2012

A Foreign Policy of Arrogant Meddling

Obama and Romney agree the U.S. has a duty to liberate and pacify the world.

|

A year before Mitt Romney picked him as a running mate, Paul Ryan gave a speech in which he discussed the promise and peril of the Arab Spring. "It's too soon to tell whether these revolutions will result in governments that respect the rights of their citizens or in one form of autocracy…supplanting another," he said. "While we work to assure the former, American policy should be realistic about our ability to avert the latter." 

More generally, Ryan said, "American policy should be tempered by a healthy humility about the extent of our power to control events in other regions." It was hard to discern any such reticence in this week's presidential debate, during which Romney agreed with President Obama that the U.S. government has a duty to liberate and pacify the world, by force of arms if necessary.

I say "debate" because that is what they called it, but there was almost no disagreement about the ends or means of U.S. foreign policy. "I absolutely believe," Romney said, "that America has a responsibility and the privilege of helping defend freedom and promote the principles that make the world more peaceful." Obama agreed that "America remains the one indispensable nation, and the world needs a strong America."

That may sound flattering to American ears, but to many people around the world it has the ring of arrogance. "If we're an arrogant nation," George W. Bush warned during the 2000 presidential campaign, "they'll resent us."

Back then Bush presented Republicans as less meddlesome than Democrats. He recommended a more "humble" foreign policy and expressed disdain for nation building, saying, "I'm not so sure the role of the United States is to go around the world and say, 'This is the way it's got to be.'"

Obama and Romney are. "We have to help these nations create civil societies," Romney said. Obama concurred, even while incongruously declaring that "we can't continue to do nation building in these regions."

As Bush did after 9/11, when he launched two enormously expensive nation-building projects in Iraq and Afghanistan, Romney and Obama rationalize American intervention as necessary to prevent terrorism. To discourage violent extremism, they say, we must encourage democracy, the rule of law, equal rights for women and religious minorities, free markets, economic development, and strong educational systems.

These are all good things. But that does not mean it is the U.S. government's proper function to accomplish them in other countries, and the attempt to do so can backfire, feeding the resentment that fosters terrorism and empowering its perpetrators.

Consider the Syrian civil war. Romney and Obama agreed that the U.S. should organize the rebels and arm them, either directly or by proxy. Although they promised they'd be careful not to help America's enemies, so far most of the weapons supplied to the opposition have ended up in the hands of Islamic extremists.

Romney said he sees no need for direct military intervention in Syria "at this stage." Obama said "for us to get more entangled militarily in Syria is a serious step." But neither of them ruled it out, and this is where the logic of overthrowing tyrants to make America safe from terrorism leads.

Perhaps recognizing that reality, Romney wants to boost military spending, even though, as Obama noted, we already "spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined." Romney poses as a fiscal conservative, claiming he wants to eliminate every program "we don't absolutely have to have." Yet when it comes to military spending, he is completely unwilling to prioritize, insisting that any "cuts," even if they only amount to a slower rate of growth, would be "devastating."

The grotesquely bloated military budget that Romney supports is not necessary for defense, unless you define that function so broadly that it requires policing the planet. Republicans are supposed to be skeptical of government's competence and wary of unintended consequences. Unfortunately, that skepticism stops at the border.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

43 responses to “A Foreign Policy of Arrogant Meddling

  1. “Back then Bush presented Republicans as less meddlesome than Democrats. He recommended a more “humble” foreign policy and expressed disdain for nation building, saying, “I’m not so sure the role of the United States is to go around the world and say, ‘This is the way it’s got to be.'””

    I voted for Bush that year – in part because I knew it was going to be a close election. It turned out to be even closer than I thought. This year I am voting for Gary Johnson. It might very well be a close election again, but I don’t give a damn – Obama and Romney are not different enough of specimens for me to care one way or another. But I do hope that, which ever one gets elected we have a less meddlesome foreign policy in the next four years. Romney could surprise us ? if Bush did a 180 on foreign policy so might Romney ? this time in the opposite direction.

  2. Sometimes the alt-text sums up the argument as well as the article.

    Kudos.

  3. You know who else was grotesquely bloated and supported by Romney…

    1. Your mom?

    2. The LDS church bureaucracy?

    3. I hate to seem insensitive, but … His wife?

    4. Friday funnies labels?

  4. How long until some nation(s) go on the world stage with something like “An America with arrogantly-meddling capability is unacceptable.”

    1. North Korea already has but the Kim family does not really have the ability to do anything about it. Seriously though, I think China might be capable of challenging the power of the crminals in DC who claim to represent us in the not too distant future. Especially since they hold much of the debt of said criminals.

      1. Especially since they hold much of the debt of said criminals.

        And therein lies the problem. We owe China a lot of money. If China starts making noise, we can always repudiate the debt; which will cause China lots of problems. They need us as much as we need them. If they can diversify who they sell too, then they might be able to call the US out on some of the meddling. But I do not see that happening for a while yet.

        1. “They need us as much as we need them.”

          Romney said much the same thing when asked about his plan of labeling China a “currency manipulator” possibly causing a trade war. Ask yourself this question though ? if you have a home mortgage does your bank need you as much as you need your bank?

          1. Ima say “No”.

            Does the Fed need your bank as much as your bank needs the Fed?

          2. if you have a home mortgage does your bank need you as much as you need your bank?

            I was thinking of the JP Morgan quote “If you owe the bank a $100 that is your problem, if you owe the bank $100 million, that is the bank’s problem”

            Since they sell into the US and get $s in return, they have to do something with those $s. Right now that is buying US treasuries. As long as the US$ is the reserve currency of the world, they will be stuck with the US. Once they diversify and start selling in other currencies, they will have much more freedom with which to deal with the US. I see signs that they are doing just that, but it will take time.

            1. “As long as the US$ is the reserve currency of the world,”

              I am skeptical that it will remain so for the rest of my lifetime. I think I will see a day when it is not.

  5. The fact is, from the right and the left, Americans love meddling and by extension meddlers.

    1. Wasn’t always that way. You can thank the ‘Greatest Generation’ for that.

      1. Nope, the start of it was abolitionists. When they were done with ensuring freedom for the enslaved (a good thing), they started on enslaving the rest of us to protect us from our freedoms (a sucky thing). The same thread of of “for-your-own-goodism” runs through the whole mess.

        1. Yes, but many of the abolitionists were also anti-imperialist, which is what I’m referring too.

        2. United Fruit Company.

    2. If by “meddling” you mean “fiddling about,” then I love it too!

  6. “I absolutely believe,” Romney said, “that America has a responsibility and the privilege of helping defend freedom and promote the principles that make the world more peaceful.”

    How about starting in America?

    To discourage violent extremism, they say, we must encourage democracy, the rule of law, equal rights for women and religious minorities, free markets, economic development, and strong educational systems.

    How about starting in America?

    1. Don’t start with me! You know how I get!

  7. The Drug War is just an internalization of this desire to meddle and deal justice to the other.

  8. One of the more stupid things you will read today:

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/23/…..?hpt=hp_c2

    1. The key to President Barack Obama’s triumphant performance in Monday night’s debate…

      That’s as far as I made it before reaching for a barf bag.

      *barf*

  9. “I absolutely believe,” Romney said, “that America has a responsibility and the privilege of helping defend freedom and promote the principles that make the world more peaceful.”

    Yeah, I feel really “priveleged”. Anyone else feel “priveleged”?

    “If we’re an arrogant nation,” George W. Bush warned during the 2000 presidential campaign, “they’ll resent us.”

    You kind of have to wonder how differnet things would have turned out if 9/11 hadn’t happened. I think it’s safe to say that BOOOOSH would be remembered far differently by many people. Oh well.

  10. I think its amazing how these politicians can tell outright, blatant LIES yet people still support them. People are so stupid!

    http://www.Anon-Whiz.tk

    1. The insight that you bring to our threads is astounding anonbot!

  11. The ridiculous notion that the US is responsible for creating the proper kind of govt in every other country in the world has now gone beyond arrogant and into the realm of dangerous. Perhaps I’m naive, but I was under the impression that the UN was created for that purpose (don’t get me started on the UN). Our own country is having troubles right now that require our govt’s attention and this inability to adapt and reprioritize is frustrating! I’m all for pitching in and helping the rest of the world when are able, but not to the detriment of our own well-being and at this point in time, I find it irresponsible. I don’t see either candidate making the choice to disengage wherever we are able.

  12. Arrogant Meddling. That’s George Carlin, right there.

  13. IF America is the indispensable nation, then why are they so eager to wreck it?

  14. Few of the contributors below have kind words for either President Obama or Gov. Romney, but many are stoked by state-level intiatives seeking to legalize the production, sale, and use of marijuana; to recognize gay marriage; and to otherwise limit Focusing on a single, less-than-important utterance by the president is a great way of missing the bigger picture, which has been painted in terrifying detail by journalists such as The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake. Lake has documented how jihadists had attacked Western targets in Benghazi months before the 9/11 attack, that U.S. sources realized the 9/11 attack was a planned operation long before the public learned that fact, that the ambassador feared for his safety, that security had been reduced, and more coach outlet Via CNN and other sources, we continue to learn more about the constant screwups and miscommunications plaguing our presence in Libya. What kind of world are we living in when politicians (including Republicans!) seem more fixated on a throwaway line in a speech rather than a serious investigation of why American diplomats are being killed?coach outlet Those are the sorts of questions that the presidential debates – and ensuing media colloquies – would be better off asking. And not just about Libya but the bigger question of U.S. foreign policy.

  15. One hour we do not speak. I thought a lot. Finally, still feel like saying it’s the fox is not possible, we Cheap Football Cleats can not find evidence that the gray-haired woman does not show fox, but no evidence, just to prove that the fox can transform himself into a cheap ugg boots for women white-haired woman. And to compare with each other, or scientific concepts prevail.

  16. Obama and Romney are. “We have to help these nations create civil societies,” Romney said. Obama concurred, even while incongruously declaring that “we http://www.drdrebeatsbydreau.com/ can’t continue to do nation building in these regions.”

  17. Running for office in 2008, he said he supports the “basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs.” He was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws.” He http://www.cheapfootballcleatspro.com/ told an Oregon newspaper that he would stop the Drug Enforcement Agency’s raids on local pot clinics.

  18. There are many mobile phones in the marketplace these days. They are doing anything from making standard telephone calls, to taking photos and jogging programs. Of all of the cell phones which Cheap Air Jordans exist, there are actually not one that may actually compare to the Retro Jordan 5 iphone 4. Do you know the benefits and advantages of buying an apple iphone over yet another smartphone? Figure out by reading through the subsequent report.

  19. There are many mobile phones in the marketplace these days. They are doing anything from making standard telephone calls, to taking photos and jogging programs. Of all of the cell phones which http://www.shopjordanssale.com exist, there are actually not one that may actually compare to the iphone 4. Do you know the benefits and advantages of buying an apple iphone over yet another smartphone? Figure out by reading through the subsequent report.

  20. Being a football coach if you are involved in coaching youth football, there are a couple of things that you should try to well know coach outlet with good reviews focus on the most if you aspire to be successful, Firstly you should have a plan for every football training session and secondly you should be focusing on making training sessions as much fun as possible for everyone involved.Being a football coach if you are involved in coaching youth football, there are a couple of things that you should try to focus on the most if you aspire to be the authorized Air Jordan Shoes really wonderful successful, Firstly you should have a plan for every football training session and secondly you should be focusing on making training sessions as much fun as possible for everyone involved.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.