Archive | October 23, 2012

Do They Never Learn? – A Brief Thought on the Romney/Obama Foreign Policy Debate

US Exports and Imports Over Time

“As I indicated, our objectives are to replace Assad and to have in place a new government which is friendly to us — a responsible government, if possible.” – Mitt Romney

I really don’t know what I can say to this statement outside of what it already says for itself. Romney and the Republicans seem to live in a different age. As Pres. Obama said, the United States is, in my opinion, indispensable on the world stage. We are not, however, all powerful. We most certainly do not, however, have the power that we had in 1945.

It is interesting that Romney would suggest forcible regime change in Syria. Our track record of inserting new governments is actually quite bad. Even Republican voters should recognize this reality.

A constant meme of the right wing seems to be that the US is a decaying empire. Our empire may, in fact, be falling apart, but America as a nation is hardly in decline. In fact, our economy, as measured by GDP, is at its highest level in our country’s history and still the world’s largest. Our exports (in terms of $$) are higher than they’ve ever been and, by political unit, we are the second largest exporter of goods in the world and by capita, the largest overall. There is no indication that growth in exports or GDP is falling anytime in the near future.

The problem, if one is to consider it a problem, is that the rest of the world is catching up. As the BRICS surge, the necessity of bowing to American will becomes less. The United States must learn to start asking rather than telling, offering incentives rather than the barrel of a gun. Perhaps it is a poor analogy, but anyone who has ever raised a child knows that there comes a day when merely shouting simply doesn’t work.

I travel a lot. When I leave the States, I find a world full of hope, despite all of the apparent problems. The rest of the world has no where to go but up. There are more jobs, the world is more educated and young people in much of the world seek more than what their parents had and have a real shot of getting it. It’s interesting to me that the world now is actually becoming more like the world that was envisioned post 1945. Namely, a world of freer markets, expanded political representation, liberal social attitudes and optimism. Certainly, there are still many, many problems. To what extent the United States is able to mitigate those problems is certainly up to debate but the evidence suggests that military might alone will not work.

I am positive that Romney does not understand this reality. The man barely understands the United States domestically. I am pretty sure that Obama understands that the world will not respond kindly to shows of force on a grand scale, but wonder how deeply he ponders the long term consequences of small incursions (e.g Pakistan). Truly though, I would choose the latter over the former.

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