Yes, I'm a liberal, but honestly, I expected more of Mitt Romney. Supporters teased his big speech at the Citadel as presenting a more muscular foreign policy to contrast with Obama. I got exactly one substantive, concrete idea for doing that, and here it is:
I will reverse the hollowing of our Navy and announce an initiative to increase the shipbuilding rate from 9 per year to 15.
Expensive, and raises the question of which ships to build. (We talking destroyers, LCS, I presume he doesn't mean carriers, but... what...?) Still, not a bad idea, and worthy of debate.
And that was really about it. The rest of the speech was about framing global problems ("Will [China's] rulers lead their people to a new era of freedom and prosperity or will they go down a darker path, intimidating their neighbors, brushing aside an inferior American Navy in the Pacific, and building a global alliance of authoritarian states?") and implying that Obama is too weak or hidebound or insufficiently pro-American to solve them. Romney devoted more effort to making himself the candidate of American Exceptionalism than to cashing out what that means.
But that's kind of the point. "As President of the United States, I will devote myself to an American Century," Romney said. "And I will never, ever apologize for America." The implication is that Obama does, and that should be a threshold issue for the credibility of a candidate on national security. Policies are less important.
I know now that Romney's against defense cuts, he's for the Arab Spring, he's dubious of international institutions, and he doesn't like a lot of countries -- from Iran to Venezuela to Russia to China. I do not know what he will do about any of those challenges, threats and problems. He gave an entire speech that without addressing what President Romney would do about the Afghanistan war he would inherit. The closest he comes:
I will order a full review of our transition to the Afghan military to secure that nation’s sovereignty from the tyranny of the Taliban. I will speak with our generals in the field, and receive the best recommendation of our military commanders. The force level necessary to secure our gains and complete our mission successfully is a decision I will make free from politics.
You tell me what that means. Would Romney not end the combat mission in 2014? Would he re-escalate the war? He implies more than he clarifies.
What would he do about Pakistan? North Korea? Trade with China? Repositioning U.S. defense strategy toward the western Pacific? (Would he close bases in Europe? Does he think the U.S. ought to reorient its overseas basing posture at all?) Post-withdrawal Iraq? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict? I get that he'd tell Iran it can't get a nuclear weapon, but what would he do about it; and what would he do if Iran crosses the nuclear threshold anyway? Libya? Did you notice this entire speech does not mention al-Qaida?
Give me something to work with here, Mitt. This culture war stuff is campaign rhetoric, and weak tea at that. You're up against a president who you don't like -- but who capped Osama bin Laden and is waging a global shadow war against al-Qaida so extreme it targets American citizens. Good luck going up against that with this.
PS: And there's still this!
I will begin organizing all of our diplomatic and assistance efforts in the greater Middle East under one official with the authority and accountability necessary to train all our soft power resources on ensuring that the Arab Spring does not fade into a long winter.
This is a stupid person's idea of a smart proposal. Who is our Man Who Moves Entire Regions By The Force Of His Words? I suppose we have little available conclusions except that Romney meant what he wrote in No Apologies.