Mitt Romney's Foreign Policy

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Mitt Romney gave a wide-ranging speech at the Heritage Foundation yesterday, sketching out his vision of foreign policy. One portion jumped out at me:

There are four competing nations or groups of nations, representing four different ways of ways of life, that are vying to lead the world before the end of this century."

One is the world’s democracies, led by America. Our strategy is based on two principles: free enterprise and individual liberty. These have led us to become the most powerful nation in the history of the world.

China represents a different strategy. Theirs is also based on two principles: free enterprise is one of them. They witnessed the bankruptcy of communism first hand, and have adopted free enterprise like it was their own. As a result, hundreds of millions of their poor have been lifted from poverty. But their second strategic dimension is not freedom, it is authoritarianism.

Another competitor is Russia. Like China, their strategy is also based on authoritarianism. But unlike China, their economic might is derived not from industry, but from energy. They seek to control the energy of the world, filling their treasury and emptying everyone else’s as we pay for what they have in abundance.

The fourth strategy is that of the Jihadists. By means of escalating violence, they intend to cause the collapse of the other three competing visions, dragging the entire world back into a medieval dictatorship ruled by Mullahs and Ayatollahs.

Is this really an accurate depiction of the international system? Can it really be said that either China or Russia are seeking to "lead the world?" Or that they're seeking to export authoritarianism around the globe? China can't even get a handle on North Korea. Russia is a shadow of its former imperial self. There is no evidence that Russia wants to control the "energy of the world" (would that include Middle East oil, American coal, nuclear power, etc.?) and in the event they even wanted to, they couldn't.

As for the jihadists, they are indeed a revolutionary threat. But they have even less capacity than either China or Russia to realize their ends and have very little in the way of worldwide support. Certainly nothing approaching what Communism had during the Cold War.

What's more, Romney undermines his thesis later on, when attempting to make the case that America's massive quantitative and qualitative military lead over Russia and China is really chimerical:

And then consider all the things we expect from our military that they do not expect from theirs. We respond to humanitarian crises, protect world shipping and energy lanes, deter terrorism, prevent genocide, and lead peace-keeping missions. And most significantly, our military is required to maintain a global presence; theirs is not. It is a far more demanding task to keep worldwide commitments than simply to build a force that can accomplish regional objectives.

China wants to lead the world and cripple freedom, but they're building a military focused solely on achieving regional objectives. That doesn't add up.

Romney did make some good points regarding the dangerous levels of debt the U.S. has accrued, but such concerns seem a bit strained if, as he asserts, we have to ramp up defense spending still higher after the post 9/11 defense binge.

UPDATE: UN Dispatch's John Boonstra catches some more fuzzy math regarding Romney's assertion that the U.S. military leads peace keeping missions:

I'm finding it hard to recall American troops rushing in to prevent genocide in Rwanda or Darfur...and a quick check of the numbers reveals that the United States currently contributes a whopping 96 personnel (75 of whom are police, and only 10 of whom are troops) to the 90,000-plus involved in UN peacekeeping missions around the world . Not exactly leading the way. Russia, by the way, has contributed almost four times that many, and China has contributed over 2,000 personnel.


Photo credit: AP Photo

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