US (Fucked-up) Foreign Policy and I
Mitt Romney’s foreign policy stances garner attention, criticism
By Jackie Hicken, Deseret News
Has Mitt Romney adopted a hawkish persona to win votes, or are his opinions on the world shaped by reality? Either way, Romney’s foreign policy rhetoric is currently taking center stage during the ongoing Republican presidential primary.
In a Friday Associated Press article, Stephen Hurst wrote, “The world according to Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney: Europeans are socialists. The Chinese are currency manipulators. Russia can’t be trusted to abide by nuclear agreements. The Palestinians are out to destroy Israel. And the U.S. is too generous with humanitarian aid.”
- Mitt Romney takes on world as he vies for presidency – Feb. 17, 2012
- A tale of two debates: Mitt Romney endures attacks while Jon Huntsman Jr. hits his stride – Jan. 8, 2012
- Why Mitt Romney can win in Iowa – Jan. 3, 2012
- A more serious Mitt Romney?: ‘Bold,’ ‘astute’ speech draws wide praise – Nov. 8, 2011
- Pros and cons abound for Mitt Romney – March 9, 2011
From campaign appearances, to debate performances, to op-eds in national newspapers, Romney’s foreign policy stances have been widely disseminated, scrutinized and criticized.
In Romney’s victory speech after winning the New Hampshire primary , Romney tied President Barack Obama’s policies with Europe, saying the president wants to “fundamentally transform” America.
“He wants to turn America into a European-style entitlement society. We want to ensure that we remain a free and prosperous land of opportunity,” Romney said. “The President takes his inspiration from the capitals of Europe; we look to the cities and small towns of America. This president puts his faith in government. We put our faith in the American people.”
Romney’s criticisms come as the euro zone faces a growing debt crisis that is unsettling markets worldwide. Greece, which was swept by violent riots in response to a new austerity package, hoped Friday that it would win an additional bailout of $170 billion.
Moody’s warned Thursday it may cut the credit ratings of 17 global and 114 European financial institutions, while last week Moody’s cut the ratings of Italy, Spain and Portugal. It also warned it could also strip France, Britain and Austria of their AAA grade. Standard & Poor cut France’s and Austria’s top ratings and downgraded seven other euro nations last month as well, Reuters reports.
“The U.S. must take care of its own crisis, and won’t give a dollar to save Europe,” Romney said in January. “Europeans have a duty to solve their crisis with the means at their disposal.”
A member of the European Parliament, Daniel Hannan, recently spoke at a gathering of conservatives in Washington, D.C., echoing many of Romney’s European themes.
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Published Feb 12 2012 by Resource Insights, Archived Feb 12 2012
Let George Clooney explain American foreign policy to you
by Kurt Cobb
In the film “Three Kings” George Clooney stars as Major Archie Gates, a special forces officer. We join him in Iraq right after the cease-fire in the first Gulf War in 1991. You’ll recall that the United States deliberately decided NOT to proceed to Baghdad and depose the government of Saddam Hussein.
Gates stumbles onto a meeting of other servicemen who’ve recovered a map to a bunker containing stolen Kuwaiti gold taken by the Iraqis during the occupation. (Where exactly the men found the map I leave to you to find out by watching the film.)
Gates and the others hatch a plan to take the gold for themselves, a plan that is based on the premise that Iraqi soldiers won’t touch Americans inside Iraqi lines because of the cease-fire. This turns out to be the case. And, it looks like the crew will make a clean getaway with the gold even as Iraqi soldiers look on. But then these American warriors witness some sickening brutality carried out against Iraqis who have participated in the uprising in southern Iraq which followed the cease-fire. Unable to stand by, the American soldiers move to defend these dissident Iraqis, and that’s when the Americans’ plan for enriching themselves goes awry. Exactly how it goes awry is the subject of much drama as well as intense comedy for the duration of the film.
When I first saw the film years ago, it occurred to me that it was one of the clearest explanations of American foreign policy I had ever seen. I am certain, however, that this was not the intention of the filmmaker. But let’s see how the story illuminates our foreign policy.
During the time the film depicts America and its allies had just liberated Kuwait, driven into Iraq and stopped. President George H. W. Bush encouraged the Iraqis to rise up against Saddam Hussein. Many Shi’ites, angry at decades of rule by Saddam and his minority Sunni supporters, did rise up expecting help from the Americans. None came. Instead, for a time the Iraqi army used helicopter gunships to massacre the dissidents until the so-called “No Fly Zone” was established by Coalition forces.
Not surprisingly, Americans had intervened in the conflict between Iraq and Kuwait with mixed motives. The invasion of Kuwait by Iraq was destabilizing and threatened to place even more oil under the rule of a volatile dictator who might not serve America’s interests. Furthermore, it was not certain whether Iraq would stop its advance with Kuwait or continue into Saudi Arabia to capture even more oilfields.
The U.S. response had both humanitarian and realpolitik aspects. We wanted the flow of cheap oil to be unimpeded. But, when Saddam threatened to extend his control over not just Kuwait, but possibly Saudi Arabia, we acted in our own interests to make sure the oil flowed freely. In the bargain we gave Kuwait back to the Kuwaitis when we were done.
Americans and our political leaders are torn between the ideals we cherish–self-determination, individual liberty, and humanitarian concern for others seeking to achieve these–and the practical requirements of running a rich and populous consumer society now dependent on other countries for many of its critical resources. I would contend that it is this tension which underpins America’s increasing ineffectiveness at achieving its foreign policy goals.
If one’s objective is simply to get the goods one needs from others by subterfuge or violence, then the method is clear. Either a straightforward heist is what is needed or an arrangement of plunder aided by local elites sometimes referred to as a trade agreement. But if you are conflicted about these methods, then in the long run you will succeed well neither at the heist and plunder nor at spreading individual liberty and self-determination.
Perhaps the best example of this is the American role in the recent Arab Spring. On the one hand, U.S. foreign policy consisted of support for authoritarian regimes in order to maintain stability in the Middle East and therefore keep oil supplies flowing. On the other hand, we funded pro-democracy groups which helped prepare Arab peoples for the Arab Spring to come. Many will be surprised to find out that these groups received added support under the second President Bush.
We want stability in the Middle East to protect oil supplies. At the same time we worry that the autocratic regimes there won’t be able to deliver that stability and that their oppression of their own peoples runs counter to our values. We want to help, but like George Clooney in “Three Kings” we always have one eye on the gold (or, in this case, the oil). Divided attention makes us less effective than we could be.
It has always been thus. Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase “Empire of Liberty” in the midst of the American Revolution. His idea was that an American Empire would dedicate itself to advancing freedom both at home and abroad. What he meant was that a new American nation would block British expansion on the continent and in doing so invite others to participate in the American experiment with liberty.
Though Jefferson’s words have been used to justify military intervention in the name of spreading democracy, nothing would have horrified him more. The brutal, centralized apparatus of an imperial power exemplified by the Great Britain of his day was exactly what Jefferson sought to avoid. And, Jefferson would shudder to gaze upon the centralized power of the current federal government and its vast military apparatus which now sprawls the Earth with hundreds of foreign bases.
In 1898 America struggled with its newfound strength when it defeated Spain and occupied Cuba. Americans debated whether Cuba should be annexed or allowed to become independent. American forces had intervened to aid the Cuban independence movement. America would lose its moral standing if it turned out that we were only seeking territorial expansion. Opposing factions fought in the U.S. Congress over annexation. Of course, Cuba was granted independence. But the two strains in American foreign policy were clear to see.
The American interventions in World War I and World War II generally demonstrate American ideals at work in foreign policy though it is important to point out that the United States had substantial commercial interests at stake before and after the war.
Our recent withdrawal from Iraq and our continuing difficulties in Afghanistan show that our confused foreign policy is making us largely ineffective at achieving our aims, and this impotence is on display for all the world to see which only compounds our weakness.
Currently, the only presidential candidate claiming the mantle of Jefferson in foreign policy is Ron Paul. Whatever you may think of him, Paul is avowedly non-interventionist and thinks the American military should be recalled to American soil. He’s fine with propagating American ideals abroad. However, this should only be done by peaceful means, both commercial and cultural. America has a right to defend itself. But any intercourse between nations should be between consenting adults, not at the point of a gun.
The British knew how to run an empire. Take the natives by surprise using superior firepower. Enlist local elites to help you subdue and run the place. And, above all, send a significant crew of Brits to live and work in the conquered territory. Learn the local languages and customs and endeavor to understand thoroughly those whom you’ve conquered.
The British adventure in Asia and Africa is the stuff of novels and films, romantic and exotic. But, Americans never truly went in for living among the natives and staying for the long term. The American way has almost always been to look for quick money and then move on.
That’s why the British were so very good at building and running an empire. And, that’s why Americans will never be very good at it. We are a restless people, constantly agitating to find better surroundings; impatient with foreigners and their ways; and naively devoted to ideals that we practice only half-heartedly at home.
We could focus merely on commercial ties with other countries, leaving their internal politics alone. But our restlessness makes us want to intervene for conflicted reasons of gain and the propagation of our presumed ideals. It’s why a Hollywood filmmaker could create a film like “Three Kings” with George Clooney wandering the Iraqi desert looking for gold while at the same time feeling he ought to do something for the wretched, frightened people he finds along the way. And, it is why so many of us watch to see what he does, measuring ourselves against the shifting standard his character Archie Gates represents.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Copyright 1999
Kurt Cobb is the author of the peak-oil-themed thriller, Prelude, and a columnist for the Paris-based science news site Scitizen. His work has also been featured on Energy Bulletin, The Oil Drum, 321energy, Common Dreams, Le Monde Diplomatique, EV World, and many other sites. He maintains a blog called Resource Insights.
Original article available here
Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and the Rest of GOP Pack Are Lacking In the Realm of Foreign Policy
It is understandable that the current GOP nomination race is focusing heavily on the economy. The U.S., and the world more broadly is facing an economic situation that has not been rivaled in severity for decades. For many voters in November there is only on issue that will determine their vote, the state of the economy. If you were better off in 2008 than you are in November 2012, it is good news for the Republicans. Yet it is important to remember that events have taken place across the globe during Obama’s presidency that will have a longer and more influential effect on global politics than the economic crisis of 2008. How a Republican president will deal with the after effects of the Arab Spring, a potentially nuclear Iran, an economically crippled Europe, a rising Asia, and a developing Africa, are all relevant and need to be considered by anyone who wishes to exercise their right to vote in November. Yet Republican candidates are not discussing in anything approaching enough detail their foreign policy proposals.
The foreign policy issue that has been dominating the news recently is the nuclear ambitions of Iran. On Wednesday it was announced that Iran has developed its first domestically-made nuclear fuel. This announcement comes a day after an American carrier moved into the Strait of Hormuz. There have also recently been assassination attempts on Israeli diplomats in Thailand, India, and Georgia. All of these events have escalated tensions in what were already strained relationships.
The response from the GOP candidate field has been disappointing and vague. Romney and Santorum stand out in the field as the neoconservative candidates. Yet specific plans have not been laid out. Should the U.S. put military forces on the ground in Iran or only act to assist Israel in defensive action? Would economic concerns alone be justification for war? If war breaks out, is nation-building part of on the table along with military victory? All of these questions and many others need to be put to the Republican candidate field. It is not enough to say, “I will not let Iran obtain a nuclear weapon.” Indeed even Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), the non-interventionist in the group, needs to expand on what a Paul administration would do in order to have a functioning diplomatic relationship with Iran.
On Europe, the Republican field is worryingly vague. Europe contains America’s closest political allies, and is in the middle of a serious economic crisis. Throughout this election season the Republican field has only mentioned Europe as an example of what America might look like it is continues borrowing too much money. That might well be true, but a European foreign policy has to examine how the U.S. will deal with the potential rise of the authoritarian right and the socialist left. NATO will remain a crucial alliance in the coming years, yet it has remained largely absent from many of the Republican’s foreign policy discussions.
Obama recently passed the 50% approval mark. This, on top of encouraging employment figures would please the president without the dysfunctional and ambiguous Republican field. Despite expectations Obama has been a president who has actively engaged with the rest of world with a foreign policy that despite its faults appears to have been the subject of at least some consideration. At the moment the Republicans do not look ready to follow suit.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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Most Mic’d Responses
- Ben Poole
- 6 hours ago
Wow – never even saw that view coming. The “authoritative left” has asserted itself far more where the right would never dread to tread. Obama has redefined and expanded the imperial Presidency. The Democrats in the first two years of Obama’s presidency passed personal mandates to control the people and bailed out Wall Street.
Oh Europe is important to the US. Nope. Just the European banks evidently and we are financing them through the Fed which is owned partly by European banks. The jokes on all of us as is this article.
The sad thing is you’re serious.
- John Scott
- 12 hours ago
I’m not sure how much more specific Paul can be. He said war would be out of the question, he said he’s stay out of Israel’s way if they want to bomb Iran back to the stone ages, he said he would stop the sanctions which are pushing Iran more to the brink, and he said he would try to “talk to them”. Something that hasn’t been tried since 1979.
let’s not forget we’ve waged war on Iran since 1953 and have not stopped to this day. Paul would end this 60 year war on day 1. How much more specific can he be?
- John Scott
- 13 hours ago
I think it’s pretty obvious how each will handle foreign policy.
Santorum will pretty much continue W’s warfare/imperialistic policies. He’d let the neocons off their leash and let them unleash hell at the expense of taxpayers and american blood.
Romney to a lesser degree. Let’s face it Romney is a white Obama. Romney will enter the oval office and say “whatever Obama was doing, continue it”.
Gingrich is Gingrich. A disaster waiting to happen. Who knows what will enter his head of his regarding foreign policy in the white house. He would wing it like he is winging the entire election.
Ron Paul is the only one who explained what he would do. Bring the troops home. Stop warmongering and interfering in other countries. Stop experimenting
- Amy Sterling Casil
- 16 hours ago
Matthew, I think you are confusing what the candidates say in the debates or during Q & A sessions, and any knowledge they might actually have. American news is woefully deficient in international coverage. Those who do have some familiarity with other parts of the world often grow frustrated with the generally ignorant condition of most of the country. That would include me – nearly everyone I am working for right now is from outside the U.S. If I were a Democrat during the Bush years, I’d say “Look at what we have now – how could it be worse?” President Obama is weak, and Secretary Clinton is stepping down soon. I think both candidates you mention probably have a few more ideas about international policy than you credit them with.
- David Gray
- 19 hours ago
I think what a lot of Americans are starting to believe is that we have been too active in how we conduct our foreign affairs. While we have been off nation building in the Middle East for the last decade, back home there are real problems that need to be addressed. Americans are tired of us seeming to be more concerned with what’s going on ‘over there’ instead of right here at home.
This is why you have seen Ron Paul rise. This is why you have seen the GOP candidates show a lack of concern about foreign affairs. The majority of Americans don’t want to hear it. Americans are more concerned about how a candidate will work to rebuild America back to greatness, than how they would respond to XYZ threat overseas. Rightfully so!
Economic Statecraft: U.S. Foreign Policy in an Age of Economic Power
“…our problems have never respected dividing lines between global economics and international diplomacy. And neither can our solutions. That is why I have put what I call economic statecraft at the heart of our foreign policy agenda.”
–Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
The world’s economic system has evolved. So must America’s foreign policy. Emerging nations increasingly deal in economic power as their primary means of measuring and exercising influence. At the same time, America’s global leadership is linked to the vitality of its domestic economy. Simply put, America’s economic strength and its global leadership are a package deal. A strong economy always has been a pillar of American power, and we must position ourselves to lead in a world where security is shaped in boardrooms and on trading floors, as well as on battlefields.
The Secretary’s Vision
Secretary Clinton is placing economics and market forces at the center of U.S. foreign policy. Economic Statecraft means both harnessing global economic forces to advance America’s foreign policy and employing the tools of foreign policy to shore up our economic strength. We have backed this vision with an ambitious agenda, covering four broad elements:
Updating Our Priorities
For the last decade, our foreign policy has, by necessity, focused on the places where we faced the greatest dangers. Responding to threats will always be central to our foreign policy, but it cannot be our foreign policy. In the decade ahead, we need to focus just as intensely on the places where we have the greatest opportunities, including:
- Pivoting to Asia through efforts such as the Trans- Pacific Partnership, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, and the U.S. – Korea Free Trade Agreement.
- Deepening Integration in Latin America through existing and new partnerships in the upcoming 2012 Summit of the Americas; and harmonizing regulatory barriers to trade with Canada and Mexico.
- Cooperating with Europe to advance our shared interests in third-country markets, and to boost jobs and competitiveness within the Trans-Atlantic market.
Playing Better Offense: Our Trade, Investment, and Commercial Diplomacy Agenda
Future U.S. competitiveness depends on our ability to curb the growing host of market distortions that too often skew the playing field against U.S. firms—including unfair subsidies and regulatory regimes, lax labor and environmental standards, and sub-market export financing.
- Jobs Diplomacy. State is launching a comprehensive trade and commercial diplomacy agenda that aggressively promotes America’s economic renewal.
- Elevating Inward Investment. We are partnering with Commerce to launch SelectUSA. Secretary Clinton has instructed embassies to tackle investment barriers globally—for example, pushing back against unfair joint venture and tech transfer requirements. Our Missions work with a broad range of local partners across the globe to help attract investment to the United States.
- Competitive Neutrality. We are working to identify unfair practices around state-owned enterprises and to create a level playing field for U.S. firms.
Using Economic Tools to Solve Foreign Policy Challenges
Many of America’s national security objectives hinge on key economic dimensions, and economics must play a central role in our policy responses. The Department is better harnessing market forces to advance U.S. political and security interests. For example:
- Creating a MENA Trade and Investment Partnership and efforts encouraging entrepreneurship to lay the economic foundations for democracy across the Middle East and North Africa.
- Launching a New Silk Road initiative to promote regional stability, connectivity, and economic growth by building economic links between Afghanistan and its neighbors.
Building the Capacity of the Department of State
We are expanding our capacity to advance this agenda by ensuring that our diplomats have the knowledge, skills and resources to execute it. Actions include:
- Establishing a new Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment; a new Bureau of Energy Resources; and the Department’s first-ever Office of the Chief Economist;
- Launching a comprehensive review of hiring, promotion, and training to ensure that our officers have the requisite economic tools.