Electoral politics generally involves promising the impossible. During the 2008 election, Obama promised stabilization of Afghanistan, improved relations with Iran, and justice for the people of Darfur, Sudan. And before him, numerous other presidential candidates and politicians have promised results that were, by most measures, highly unlikely to be reached. It’s the nature of beast.
However, we may have reached a new high in outlandish foreign policy promises with Mitt Romney’s latest speech at the Virginia Military Institute.
In focusing only on illusionary policy promises, we of course will ignore delving into the blatant lie Romney babbled that the Obama administration has “not signed one new free-trade agreement,” which, of course, ignores the fact that, well, it did.
But lies aside, let’s move on to the foreign policy of Romney magic (for that is the only way it appears he would be able to achieve these often discordant goals).
With the power of magic, Romney will somehow take a stronger and more effective stance on Iran and its nuclear program. He even claimed that if he were president during the widespread protests against the Iranian regime, he would’ve given support to the revolutionary green movement (unlike that freedom-hater Obama). And he would accomplish all of this by…well…? Ok he doesn’t say specifically. So I guess we’ll just chalk that all up to magic.
And of course in presenting this Iranian policy, he never addresses the reality that under President Obama the U.S. has slapped debilitating sanctions on the Iranian government and green-lighted Israeli attacks against Iranian nuclear scientists.
Romney also claimed that if elected, his administration would give full-fledged support to the Syrian rebels, as a bolster to freedom and democracy in the region. This of course ignores the growing sectarian nature of the conflict, the influx of Islamists among the rebels, and the fear that these aforementioned aspects of the conflict may be aggravated during the anarchic post-war chaos that often emerges after revolution and regime change. Is it really a great idea to put more weapons into this situation? I guess it is if you have the power of magic to ameliorate these concerns.
Although the United States is already engaged in aiding the Syrian rebels where it feels prudent, Romney’s plan to jump in head-first seems to ignore these very valid concerns about the nature of factions of the rebellion and the state that post-Assad Syria could take.
Yet Romney’s Iran and Syria policies may be the least ridiculous of his promises, as the former governor goes on to claim that he would have stopped (or at least slowed) U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq. Somehow Romney would have overridden the Iraqi government’s previously agreed upon (with the Bush administration) sovereign choice to reject further U.S. troop presence in their country.
Romney also seems to believe that current violence in Iraq (mainly from Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, aimed at Shias as a means to reignite sectarian tensions in the country) can be traced to a lack of U.S. troop presence. This would make perfect sense if it weren’t for the pretty well-established facts that sectarian violence was higher at times of U.S. troop presence than now (the Iraqis fought a civil war for a year or so despite it) and that there is little evidence to establish a causal relation between today’s violence and the absence of U.S. troops.
Unsurprisingly, Romney went on to emphasize the importance of the U.S.-Israeli alliance, chastising Obama for not constantly kissing the behind of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Without skipping a beat, Romney also outlined how his administration would predicate its relations with other nations on democracy and human rights, cutting off those who violate these sacrosanct principles. It must have escaped Romney that the nation he wants to remain bosom buddies with, Israel, retains its own human rights issues.
For a man who claims to ground his political views on prudent realism, Romney remains starkly unrealistic in these policy prescriptions, as following through on them would mean a severance of relations with not only Israel but also anti-Iranian allies Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Yemen, not to mention numerous other allies across the globe who remain guilty of an array of human rights violations.
In the real world, foreign policy involves dealing with regimes that are not clearly friends or enemies, states that basically remain global colleagues or coworkers. It is beyond America’s or any one nation’s control to effectively and quickly effect democratic or progressive change in most of the world’s countries. A more realistic approach is to play our hand carefully and promote democratic and progressive change where we can and with as little bellicose, military action as possible.
However, apparently for those living in the Mitt Romney imaginary world, the magical powers of American assertiveness alone are enough to accomplish the seemingly impossible. Too bad for Mitt, this voter has never been one for the promises of magic.