Monday, October 8, 2012

Romney's VMI Speech

Earlier today Mitt Romney made a key-note foreign policy address. As with my recent analysis of President Obama's foreign policy, I thought it would be appropriate to analyze Romney's speech.

Here's what I liked.

First, I thought it was good that Romney went out of his way to pay tribute to the VMI. The Virginia Military Institute represents the enduring center of the South's contribution to American military service. And southern US states make the primary contribution to the US Military's personnel base.

Second, I thought Romney provided an articulate and persuasive argument concerning the political dynamics in the Middle East at the moment. I share Romney's belief that the Middle East is in the midst of a pivotal battle for its future. This is a struggle between forces of oppression and ideological tyranny, and between citizens who wish for greater freedom, greater opportunity and a better future for their children. There should be no question of where America stands.

Third, I thought that Romney laid out robust alternatives to Obama's policies on Afghanistan and Syria. Where Obama announced and laid down in stone an early artificial timetable to end America's military engagement in Afghanistan ('on schedule'), in contrast Romney today said that he would ensure that military advice and conditions on the ground would be at the core of his decision making process. On Syria, I feel that Romney was bold (and correct) to state that he would provide arms to the rebels. This is a proposition not without risk - those arms might ultimately fall into the hands of adversaries of the United States. However, for both moral and strategic reasons the US must support the liberation of Syria with greater tangible support.

Fourth, I thought Romney laid out a credible alternative to Obama's policy on Iran. Romney brought a poignant clarity to Obama's policy re-Iran. This President has preferred a small chance of detente with Iran's leaders rather than supporting the basic rights of the Iranian people. This is immoral and unbecoming of America. As a second albeit equally important point, I also believe that a President Romney would have a much greater likelihood of persuading Iran's leadership to give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons. Why? Because I believe that Iran regards Romney's threats as far more credible than Obama's. For diplomacy to work, Iran must fear the consequences of diplomatic failure.

Fifth, I agreed with Romney's position that US aid to Egypt should be contingent on the protection of our diplomatic facilities and the surety of Egyptian-Israeli peace. This is an obvious demand that Obama has not made openly.

However, there were areas where I disagreed with Romney.

First, I think Romney was wrong to say that the world should 'never see any daylight' between Israel and the US. While I believe that a strong and positive US relationship with Israel is a moral necessity, we must be willing to articulate our differences with the Israeli Govt. as and when they occur. It is not for example in the interests of the US that settlement construction in the West Bank continues unabated. While Romney is right to argue that the world must understand that the US will always ensure Israel's security, an intellectually robust and honest American policy requires that the US will not always agree with the Israeli standpoint. This is nothing to be afraid of. The US relationship with its closest ally, the UK, often faces points of disagreement. Yet, the special relationship always endures.

Second, I disagree with Romney's defense spending plans. While the January defense sequester would be a disaster that must be avoided, I believe that Obama's proposed $450bn/10yr defense cuts strike an achievable and realistic balance between fiscal austerity and strategic necessity. As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is fond of arguing, our national debt is our greatest enemy. Building a greatly increased number of ships is unjustifiably expensive. This budget simulator illustrates the strong defense savings that could be made without damaging US security. While I disagree with Romney's defense spending proposals, I support his focus on greater submarine procurement as part of the Navy's existing construction choices. Submarines will be crucial in ensuring continued US naval supremacy into the future.

Overall though, a strong speech which presented a clear and bold counter to the incumbent's foreign policy. Romney is looking stronger every day.

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