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Right Turn
Posted at 11:27 AM ET, 10/07/2011

Romney as the anti-Obama commander in chief

The roll out of Mitt Romney’s foreign policy team, a major address and a comprehensive white paper on his views on national security reveal two things about the candidate, one we have seen before and another less apparent up until now.

As he did on his jobs plan, Romney’s foreign policy rollout is detailed, organized, professional and aided by very smart people. The logistics of assembling a big team of top advisors, crafting a short but bold speech and coming up with a detailed written document are daunting and impressive. The level of detail is unlike anything any other candidate has attempted, and far exceeds what we usually get in campaigns. This is Romney the executive, Romney the smart guy and Romney the polished professional. His message is clear: I’m prepared and I know what I am doing.

But what is surprising about his foreign policy effort is that unlike his economic plans and what has come top be seen as a character defect (e.g. lack of strong convictions) his foreign policy statements are bold, unqualified, and not couched for political advantage.

At the Citadel he offered himself as the not-President Obama:

Our next President will face many difficult and complex foreign policy decisions. Few will be black and white.
But I am here today to tell you that I am guided by one overwhelming conviction and passion: This century must be an American Century. In an American Century, America has the strongest economy and the strongest military in the world. In an American Century, America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world.
God did not create this country to be a nation of followers. America is not destined to be one of several equally balanced global powers. America must lead the world, or someone else will. Without American leadership, without clarity of American purpose and resolve, the world becomes a far more dangerous place, and liberty and prosperity would surely be among the first casualties.
Let me make this very clear. As President of the United States, I will devote myself to an American Century. And I will never, ever apologize for America.
Some may ask, “Why America? Why should America be any different than scores of other countries around the globe?”
I believe we are an exceptional country with a unique destiny and role in the world. Not exceptional, as the President has derisively said, in the way that the British think Great Britain is exceptional or the Greeks think Greece is exceptional. In Barack Obama’s profoundly mistaken view, there is nothing unique about the United States.
But we are exceptional because we are a nation founded on a precious idea that was birthed in the American Revolution, and propounded by our greatest statesmen, in our fundamental documents. We are a people who threw off the yoke of tyranny and established a government, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

He repeatedly distinguished himself with Obama and timid voices in his own party: “I will not surrender America’s role in the world. This is very simple: If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your President. You have that President today. The 21st century can and must be an American century. It began with terror, war, and economic calamity. It is our duty to steer it onto the path of freedom, peace, and prosperity....Let future generations look back on us and say, they rose to the occasion, they embraced their duty, and they led our nation to safety and to greatness.” It was the sort of language we are used to hearing from Sen. Marco Rubio (R- Fla.).

The speech laid out four core principles and eight steps he would take in the first 100 days. His principles repudiate nearly every premise of the Obama administration:

First, American foreign policy must be prosecuted with clarity and resolve. Our friends and allies must have no doubts about where we stand. And neither should our rivals. If the world knows we are resolute, our allies will be comforted and those who wish us harm will be far less tempted to test that resolve.
Second, America must promote open markets, representative government, and respect for human rights. The path from authoritarianism to freedom and representative government is not always a straight line or an easy evolution, but history teaches us that nations that share our values, will be reliable partners and stand with us in pursuit of common security and shared prosperity.
Third, the United States will apply the full spectrum of hard and soft power to influence events before they erupt into conflict. . . . The United States should always retain military supremacy to deter would-be aggressors and to defend our allies and ourselves. If America is the undisputed leader of the world, it reduces our need to police a more chaotic world.
Fourth, the United States will exercise leadership in multilateral organizations and alliances. . . . Too often, these [multilateral] bodies prize the act of negotiating over the outcome to be reached. And shamefully, they can become forums for the tantrums of tyrants and the airing of the world’s most ancient of prejudices: anti-Semitism. The United States must fight to return these bodies to their proper role. But know this: while America should work with other nations, we always reserve the right to act alone to protect our vital national interests.

But it is in his eight proposals that we see some surprising clarity for a candidate who has often been anything but. The first element (as one advisor put it, the most important part of his entire vision) is national security spending: “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. I will order the formulation of a national cybersecurity strategy, to deter and defend against the growing threats of militarized cyber-attacks, cyber-terrorism, and cyber-espionage.” In a briefing before the speech an advisor explained that Romney would not accept a ”hollow” military and that the rule of thumb should be to restore the military budget to approximately 4 percent of GDP. This is not universally popular in the GOP, but it should provide a level of comfort to foreign policy hawks who see defense spending being sacrificed at the altar of buget reduction.” His other proposals include: Restore a credible military option for Iran; organize a unified approach to the Arab Spring, launch a pro-democracy and economic development initiative in our hemisphere; order a “a full review of our transition to the Afghan military to secure that nation’s sovereignty from the tyranny of the Taliban” (“The force level necessary to secure our gains and complete our mission successfully is a decision I will make free from politics”); and bolster and repair alliances, specifically listing Israel and Britain.

I’ll have more later on the details set out in his white paper. (The decision not to load up the address with every particular position but to put them in written form was probably a wise one). My reaction to the speech was two-fold. First, if he were as specific and bold on domestic issues as he is on foreign policy he’d win over more conservatives. Second, this is a grown up with a sophisticated view of the world that is grounded in the belief in American power and values. The contrast with Obama could not be more vivid. Check back at Right Turn for some exclusive coverage of the Romney foreign policy rollout.

By  |  11:27 AM ET, 10/07/2011

Categories:  2012 campaign, foreign policy

 
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