Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Are there any appreciable foreign policy differences between Obama and Romney?

By Marc Jampole
 
Like many of the left with pacifist leanings, I am disappointed with President Obama’s foreign policy.  I don’t like the fact that Guantanamo is still open and that we still have 16,000 mercenaries (I’ll refrain from using the current euphemism, “military contractor”) in Iraq and hundreds of thousands of soldiers and mercenaries in Afghanistan. Killing Osama bin Laden without a trial and using drones to assassinate American citizens, again without a trial, seem like continuations of the Bush II reign of illegality.  I would prefer a budget that cuts military spending even more than what the Democrats are proposing.  Moreover, on principle I am disappointed in any President who does not unilaterally dismantle our nuclear capability.

But that’s me. I’m anti-war deep into my bones.

What would the mainstream view of Obama’s foreign policy be?

When placed in the context of American foreign policy since the 1940’s, when judged by the criteria of the Cold War and post-Cold War strategies, it’s hard to come to any other conclusion than that Obama has one of the best—if not the best—foreign policy record since FDR.  He has pretty much eradicated world terrorism as a military threat and he has brought home virtually all the troops—U.S. and mercenary—from Iraq. He has mustered surprising world support for the U.S. positions regarding Iran and Syria. He has continued to upgrade military technology, as witnessed by the infamous drones. Both Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are immensely popular with foreign leaders and populations, primarily for not being Bush II. Anyone who thinks Obama has been too weak or mealy-mouthed with any of our enemies, perceived or real, just hasn’t been listening to his rhetoric. There have been no new foreign policy fiascos or government scandals. That’s a pretty good record when judged by the U.S. State Department standards in effect for the past 65 or so years.

The Republicans aren’t talking much about foreign policy, and with good reason: when you start from the premises of their worldview, Obama’s foreign policy should rate highly. When you go to the Romneycampaign website you mostly get generalizations. He does seem to repeat several points, all of which I found well-articulated in a speechMitt gave on foreign policy at the Citadel about 11 month ago:
  • He believes in American exceptionalism, which means that the United States can play by its own rules because there is something special about its mission, kind of the equivalent of Jews believing they are a “light unto the nations.”
  • He believes that we are in a war against radical Islam.
  • He doesn’t want a world in which there are rival powers, and mentions China and Russia as two potential rivals.
  • He wants to spend more on the military.
In all these positions, he is only slightly to the right of centrist mainstream State Department positions, in other words to Obama himself.

Would Mitt pull troops out of Afghanistan faster or slower than Obama? Is he more or less likely to start a war somewhere? Will he stop the use of drones to assassinate people our spy network thinks are terrorists? Or will he bring back waterboarding and other forms of torture? 

Mitt’s not saying, but my guess is that the answer to all these questions is about the same as Obama’s, maybe a little quicker on the trigger with China and Russia.  Keep in mind that no matter who wins:
  1. We can’t afford to pay for another major war and everyone knows it, including the Iranians.
  2. Only the top echelon at the State and Defense departments are political appointments. The rest will remain as part of the continuing foreign policy establishment which has employed the following strategy to guide the United States since the birth of the Cold War: Let’s bully our way because we have the most weapons.
These two facts will serve to push a Romney Administration towards the Obama centrist foreign policies.

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