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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About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

4 responses to “Do They Never Learn? – A Brief Thought on the Romney/Obama Foreign Policy Debate”

  1. independent says :

    America cannot run away or hide like Obama does. Don’t misinterpret one words when you don’t like him. We always have the tendency to read into one’s word and interpret in a pre-conceived way. Even Obama said that “Assad must go.” Why it is wrong for republican to say “our objectives are to replace Assad”

  2. Pete Larson says :

    There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Obama is running away nor hiding. As far as I can tell, with the exception of Iraq, basic war policy has changed very little since 2008.

    Perhaps you know something I don’t?

    Saying “Assad must go” is quite different from indicating the we want to forcibly insert a government that’s friendly to us. *We* don’t get that privilege.

    Besides, history has shown that we’re pretty god-awful at setting up new governments post 1950.

    I don’t think that Obama and Romney differ essentially on matters of foreign policy. I do believe that Obama’s inclusive outlook is somewhat more in line with current conditions that Romney’s (Bush’s) heavy handed and unilateral approach.

  3. mikey2ct says :

    I intend to support the President and when it comes to foreign policy especially. As terrible as the toll is under Assad who do we support in the opposition? I think he is doing a good job with supporting Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, UAE etc. However, he has vetoed heavy arms as too dangerous an escalation. I would not count on the Mittster to maintain peace.

  4. ypsijav says :

    What about this part: “And then in those nations, and on Arabic TV, you said that America had been dismissive and derisive. You said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations. Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.” I was disappointed the fact-checkers skipped it.

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