Mitt Romney --
Strong on National Defense
The focus of the 2012 presidential election has quite rightly been on domestic issues -- Obamacare, the state of the economy, and the ever-increasing size and power of the federal government.
Traditionally, foreign policy has not determined the outcome of a national election -- and this year will likely be no exception. But the state of America's national defense forces in a violent and chaotic world is nonetheless a matter of vital importance.
We know the thinking of the Obama Administration and Democrats on this subject: neglect and appeasement are the order of the day.
Under President Obama, America has allowed its ties with her natural allies -- countries like Great Britain and Israel -- to wither. Obama pulled the rug out from under Poland by backing away from a missile-defense treaty we had already negotiated, which would have extended US military protection to that country in the teeth of a revanchist and aggressive Russia. Obama greeted revolutionary stirrings that might have toppled the Islamist power structure in Iran with a shameful timidity that put the lie to his gaseous world-historical protector-of-freedom utterances at the Brandenburg gate in Germany. Obama is no crusader on the front lines of the struggle against tyranny. He is a feckless functionary of that world order which above all else values a statist status-quo.
But what of Mitt Romney? What do we know of his animating values, his instincts and impulses? What would he bring to the United States and thus to the world stage?
In a recent speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno Nevada, given on the eve of a six-day overseas trip, Romney painted the clearest picture yet of the philosophies that would guide his foreign policies should he become America's next Commander-in-Chief. They represent a 180-degree turn from those philosophies held by President Obama.
- In a slashing critique of the sitting President, Romney said Obama's policies have “exposed the military to cuts that no one can justify, compromised our national- security secrets, and in dealings with other nations, he has given trust where it is not earned, insult where it was not deserved, and apology where it is not due.”
- Romney called for the U.S. to insist that Iran end all uranium enrichment -- rather than limit it to 5 percent, as administration officials have indicated they might accept -- as part of any agreement on its nuclear program.
- "If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on earth, I am not your president,” Romney said in his speech. “You have that president today."
- Romney accused Obama’s team of revealing secret national- security information -- including such things as details of the raid that killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden last year -- for political gain.
“This conduct is contemptible,” Romney said. “Whoever provided classified information to the media, seeking political advantage for the administration, must be exposed, dismissed and punished. The time for stonewalling is over.”
- On the matter of America's relations with Israel, Romney was equally forthright: “Since I wouldn’t venture into another country to question American foreign policy, I will tell you right here -- before I leave -- what I think of this administration’s shabby treatment of one of our finest friends,” Romney said.
- Romney was strongly condeming of automatic defense cuts authorized by Congress a year ago as part of a bipartisan measure to achieve still-realized cuts in the national debt:
“This is not the time for the president’s radical cuts in the military,” Romney said. He called the reductions a road to “devastation” that would badly harm the Department of Veterans Affairs. “If I am president of the United States, I will not let that happen.”
Romney's sentiments reinforced ideas he has expressed before, most prominently in a speech at The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina, in October of last year. At that time, Romney called for a renewal of American military and geopolitical strength, such that we could make the 21st Century an "American Century" -- an idea profoundly at odds with those expressed by President Obama when he first took office in 2009 ("I believe in American exceptionalism," Obama said at a news conference in Strasbourg, France,"Just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.").
Other key points made by Romney in his Citadel speech included these:
- “American strength rises from a strong economy, a strong defense, and the enduring strength of our values.” Romney said he would “reverse President Obama’s massive defense cuts” and rebuild the military.
- “Time and again,” Romney said, “we have seen that attempts to balance the budget by weakening our military only lead to a far higher price, not only in treasure, but in blood.”
- “In my first 100 days in office, I will take a series of measures to put these principles into action, and place America—and the world—on safer footing,” he continued. “Among these actions will be to restore America’s national defense. I will reverse the hollowing of our Navy and announce an initiative to increase the shipbuilding rate from 9 per year to 15. I will begin reversing Obama-era cuts to national missile defense and prioritize the full deployment of a multilayered national ballistic missile defense system.”
- Rejecting notions of isolationism and appeasement harbored even by some Republicans, Romney called instead for a renewed and muscular engagement in the world. “This is America’s moment,” Romney said. “We should embrace the challenge, not shrink from it, not crawl into an isolationist shell, not wave the white flag of surrender, nor give in to those who assert America’s time has passed. That is utter nonsense. An eloquently justified surrender of world leadership is still surrender.”
- Echoing political pundit Charles Krauthammer, Romney said that America holds her own destiny in her hands. Be it decline or ascendancy, America's future fortunes on the world stage are ours to aspire to or turn away from. “This isn’t our destiny, it is a choice. We are a democracy. You decide. In this campaign for president, I will offer a very different vision of America’s role in the world and of America’s destiny.”
Romney said he wants to lead a nation that understands its role in the world—and that peace can, indeed, be attained through strength.
“This century must be an American Century,” he said. “In an American Century, America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world.”
Naysayers of all political stripes may call Romney's national security sentiments only a pose. Future events will answer that question. If they are a pose, they are very much in keeping with traditional conservative ideas about America's place in the world. They stand in stark and worrisome contrast to those embraced by the present administration.
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