This weekend, Governor Mitt Romney touched down in Israel as the second leg of his three-nation jaunt to build up his foreign policy credibility. There he will hope to salvage what is left of this tour after his ill-spoken comments on preparations for the Olympics in its host city of London and also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In many ways, Governor Romney has the luxury of not needing to discuss his foreign policy worldview. However, when the rhetoric is examined, it is apparent the Governor's Foreign Policy Worldview is not leadership for the 21st Century but rather is stuck in the 20th Century.
One of Governor Romney's closer advisers on foreign affairs is Robert Kagan, a preeminent neoconservative historian who in March, published an article with the headline saying "America has Made the World Safer, Freer, and Wealthier." In the article's conclusion, Kagan expounds that "If and when American power declines, the institutions and norms American power has supported will decline, too." To Kagan, America is always seen as a force that supports free democracies, elections and capitalism. In turn, America must continue to have the role of global imposer of its will.
However, Kagan's logic can at times be deeply flawed. While it is true that the United States did play a large role in World War II and the success of the post-war recovery as well as supporting free elections, there were also instances where it compromised its democratic values in the name of containing the Soviet Union, as was the case with supporting Contras in Nicaragua; the deposing of a Democratically-elected Prime Minister in Iran for a Shah-which caused the breeding ground for the Iranian revolution in 1979-and the assistance in the overthrowing of Salvador Allende in Chile. The United States would continue this practice after the Cold War with its support for the Saudi Arabian Kingdom, and continued to support Hosni Mubarak until the final part of the February 2011 uprisings in Egypt.
This is not to say that the United States is necessarily an evil force either and to force between saying one or the other is a false dichotomy. However, what it does say is that the United States' foreign policy is oftentimes directed in what is in its national interest. Sometimes, this does lead to good results, as was the case with support for anti-communist forces, but the idea of America as some global enforcer of pure democratic intentions could not be further from the truth. It is that mindset that provided the intellectual impetus for neoconservative ventures like the War in Iraq.
This mode of thinking is clear in Governor Romney's approach to discussing civilization. In a speech to the Citadel last October, Governor Romney spoke of the need to create "a New American Century," quoting an essay by Henry Luce. The analogy is fitting given Romney's remarks that he is a "classic baby boomer" and therefore remembers the era where America was locked in a clash of the benevolent force that was the United States and the evil empire of the Soviet Union. In addition, he was born just two years after the United States had assumed the mantle of World Leader after the fall of Nazi Germany. In turn, to the Governor, the world is constantly pitted in a battle of good versus evil, with the United States force always being benevolent and any force questioning it questions the nature of America.
This zero-sum view is further augmented by Governor Romney's belief that the Constitution is "divinely inspired." By elevating the Constitution from a legal document created by intelligent but fallible men which contains, what Franklin called, "all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views," but still managed to be a wonderful document to being a divinely inspired religious text, it decreases the humility of American force and its ability to negotiate in diplomatic engagement with its enemies. For if someone's founding was ordained by God, then then any compromise of its nature. Hence, when he goes around saying that America should not apologize, it is not the typical conservative chest thumping seen by other conservatives but rather moral outrage because how can one question a country with a divinely inspired document?
In turn, Governor Romney's hawkish views have been on display in subtle hints. He called America and Israel the "true peacemakers" in regards to a military strike against Iran. He has said famously that Russia is America's "number one geopolitical foe." It is also apparent when Governor Romney said that if President Obama had implemented the Bush Freedom Agenda, there would not have been an Arab Spring.
The problem with this worldview however, is that it is out of touch with what has really occurred since the end of the Cold War. Mubarak didn't fail to do democratic reforms because of the failure to enact the Freedom Agenda; in fact if the agenda had worked, then Mubarak would have left earlier. Yet the United States continued to financially support Mubarak even during this so-called "Freedom Agenda." Russia may stall action on Syria and in other areas but they do not have the military firepower to pose a serious threat and is in the middle of its own political upheaval. In addition, Romney's bullishness on a war with Iran is similar to Netanyahu's; it flies in the face of warnings of calamity by both Israeli and American security experts. In turn, it could be said that the Governor's foreign policy is little more than a cut and paste of previous foreign policy mores and could potentially lead to over-extension of military and diplomatic force.