Until now, foreign policy has barely been an issue in the presidential race. That must change; here is how Mitt Romney should go about it.
First, he should be bold and explicit in declaring that recent events demonstrate that Barack Obama’s foreign policies have been not just a failure, but a disaster. Obama thought he could reason with the mullahs. He was wrong, and now Iran is on the brink of becoming a nuclear power. He thought he could mollify Islamic radicals with sweet talk and apologies. He even claimed that his mere inauguration would improve America’s relations with the Muslim world. He was wrong, and four Americans are dead and American embassies and consulates are under attack from Morocco to Yemen. Obama thought that America’s alliance with Israel was a key reason for Muslim hatred of the United States. He was wrong, and now America has been estranged from its only real ally in the region. Applause line: “The job of the president is not to apologize for America. The job of the president is to defend America!”
Further, Obama’s policies toward the Arab world have been inconsistent if not perverse. He was eager to intervene in Libya and to overthrow the U.S.’s principal Arab ally in Egypt, apparently without giving much thought to what would come next. Meanwhile, he has stood by and done nothing with respect to Syria. We now see the fruits of those policies in Libya and Egypt; Obama has empowered radical Islam and thereby made the world more dangerous for America, not less so.
Second, Romney should stand up for the First Amendment. He should engage in no ritual denunciations of movies, cartoons, ministers in Florida, or burnings of the Koran, real or imagined. These things are all pretexts. The radical Muslims will never run out of pretexts; not until they get what they want, which is our entire submission to their ideology. Screw that, Romney should say–I’m paraphrasing here–Americans are a free people, and our freedoms will not be limited or constrained by howling mobs of fanatics. Not under a Romney administration, anyway.
Third, Romney should tie the current crisis directly to the Obama administration’s disdain for military power. The administration is in the process of reducing our armed forces, especially the Navy, to a level that experts believe will drastically impact our ability to project power around the world. Further, the impending “sequestration” will have the impact of cutting military spending to the bone, while social welfare spending continues to skyrocket. This chart shows the numbers:
These cuts would, among other things, reduce spending on security for our embassies and other facilities abroad. The Obama administration has its priorities wrong: the only area where it is willing to cut spending is the first responsibility of the federal government, national defense.
These are simple points, and I am sure Romney is comfortable with all of them. The key is that he must be bold–he must not let his advisers turn him into Obama lite–and he must tie the debacles in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere directly to Obama administration policies and explain how his administration will be different. If he does that, foreign policy will become a strength of his campaign, not a weakness.