Monday, October 08, 2012

Hope is not a strategry

Today Mitt Romney gave a “foreign policy speech” at the Virginia Military Institute, because nothing says Republican foreign policy like enunciating it in front of future cannon fodder.

DRAMATIC OPENING: “Last month, our nation was attacked again.” If by “our nation” you mean a consulate in Libya.

“The attacks against us in Libya were not an isolated incident. They were accompanied by anti-American riots in nearly two dozen other countries”. Some of which could in no way be fairly characterized as riots, but were in fact demonstrations, you know, people peacefully expressing their opinions.

REMEMBER, BLACK THINGS ARE ALWAYS BAD: “These mobs hoisted the black banner of Islamic extremism over American embassies on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks.”

WHAT THE ATTACKS ON AMERICA SHOULD NOT BE SEEN AS: “The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts. They are expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East”

LEAVE “INNOCENCE OF MUSLIMS” ALOOOONE! “This latest assault cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the Administration’s attempts to convince us of that for so long. No, as the Administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others, especially women and girls...” Cough. “...who are fighting to control much of the Middle East today; and who seek to wage perpetual war on the West.” Actually, they probably seek to win the war. Why would they want to wage perpetual war? It’s this sort of insight into the minds of Islamic militants that’s been missing since George Bush skipped off the world stage.

Evidently this war is exactly like the Cold War. It’s a perfect analogy. “Fortunately, we had leaders of courage and vision, both Republicans and Democrats, who knew that America had to support friends who shared our values”. For Greek generals, read Saudi princes.

“But it is our responsibility and the responsibility of the President to use America’s great power to shape history, not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events.”

GREAT STRAINS: “The relationship between the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel, for example, our closest ally in the region, has suffered great strains.” That’s rather ambiguous: is it Israel, or the Israeli prime minister, who is our closest ally? Because they’re not the same thing, as much as Bibi admittedly resembles Louis XIV.

AND HOW CLOSE IS THAT? “Iran today has never been closer to a nuclear weapons capability.”

BECAUSE IF THERE’S ONE THING THAT ALWAYS INFLUENCED EVENTS FOR THE BETTER IN IRAQ, IT’S US MILITARY OCCUPATION: “In Iraq the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent al-Qaida, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad and the rising influence of Iran. And yet America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence.”

WHAT HOPE IS NOT: “I know the president hopes for a safer, freer and more prosperous Middle East allied with us. I share this hope. But hope is not a strategy.”

I CAN’T BE THE ONLY PERSON WHO, EVERY TIME I HEAR THE PHRASE “BEDROCK PRINCIPLES,” MUTTERS “YABBA DABBA DO” UNDER MY BREATH: “It is time to change course in the Middle East. That course should be organized around these bedrock principles: America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might.” So hope is not a strategy but confidence, clarity and resolve are.

THAT WORD PEACE, I DO NOT THINK IT MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS: “For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions, not just words, that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.”

I’M NOT A NAVAL EXPERT, BUT I’M GUESSING THIS COMPARISON IS A LITTLE MISLEADING: “The size of our Navy is at levels not seen since 1916.” He wants to build 12 ships and 3 submarines every year, in case we need to fight pirates or Captain Nemo or something.

HEY, MAYBE WE CAN USE CLEAN COAL IN THOSE EFFECTIVE MISSILE DEFENSES: “I’ll implement effective missile defenses to protect against threats.”

“The president has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years.” I’m guessing the Romney people will say that the word “new” makes this not a lie, since the three Obama signed were all ones Bush failed to get ratified.

Romney goes on to describe (without any actual details) how he will magically create democracy and freedom in Libya and Egypt. And in Syria, “I’ll work with our partners to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and then ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks helicopters and fighter jets.” Ignoring for a moment the question of whether it’s wise to dump anti-aircraft missiles willy nilly into the Middle East, does anyone doubt that one of, if not the only, “partner” with whom he’ll be picking winners and losers in Syria is Israel? And does anyone doubt how announcing his intention to do so will go over in Syria?

He says overthrowing Assad is important because it would be a “strategic defeat” for Iran. Syria will no doubt be pleased that Mitt’s interest in their country is merely a by-product of his wish to cock a snook at the mullahs.

He says that Obama has failed in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which is true, although not for presence of trying. “In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new president will bring the chance to begin anew.” Because it’s all about us.

WHAT THERE’S A LONGING FOR IN THE MIDDLE EAST: “There’s a longing for American leadership in the Middle East”. Also for halvah, for some reason.

Really, just who is it in the Middle East who’s longing for American leadership? Names, I want names.

Throughout the speech, he talks about leading and leadership: “if America doesn’t lead, others will,” Obama “leads from behind” and “failed to lead in Syria,” etc. He’s vague on what that leading would actually consist of, beyond a lot of asserting principles. It’s the foreign policy equivalent of his line at that fundraiser about the economy improving if he’s elected without his actually doing anything. The only specific things he promises involve military hardware: more ships, Star Wars, weapons to Syrian rebels.

BIG FINISH: “The 21st century can and must be an American century. It began with terror and war and economic calamity. It’s our duty to steer it onto the path of freedom and peace and prosperity. The torch America carries is one of decency and hope. It’s not America’s torch alone, but it is America’s duty and honor to hold it high enough that all the world can see its light.” As we carry that torch of decency and hope into the Middle East where it will ignite the oil-fire of decency and hope.

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  1. Interesting, those parts of his rhetoric that could have been cribbed from Obama: “For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions, not just words, that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.” Or “The 21st century can and must be an American century."

  2. The only specific things he promises involve military hardware: more ships, Star Wars, weapons to Syrian rebels. hope isn't a strategy but John Foster Dulles cold war & Reagan military buildup is?

    Aren't those two men alone responsible for our current relations with Central & South America (read: fairly shitty) and a large portion of the national debt? (okay okay, I know it wasn't Reagan's fault -- everyone knows it's Obama's last ~6 trillion or whatever in in the 201x's that was much more significant than Ronnie racking up 3 trillion in 1980's dollars)

  3. WIIIAI, whenever I hear Romney speak, I'm reminded of a line Mary McCarthy spoke about Lillian Hellman: "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.'"

    Every word Romney utters is a lie, including "and" and "the."

  4. Glenn Greenwald sums up the Democratic argument about this speech: 1) Romney is advocating the same things Obama is doing, 2) Romney is a dangerous, bellicose extremist.