Money and Magic

So the prepared text for Mitt Romney’s latest “big foreign policy speech,” this time at VMI, is now available, and if there is anything new in it, it sure doesn’t jump out at you. It’s all about the Greater Middle East. And to the extent that there is any coherent theme, it’s this:

America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might. No friend of America will question our commitment to support them… no enemy that attacks America will question our resolve to defeat them… and no one anywhere, friend or foe, will doubt America’s capability to back up our words.

Add in more defense spending, and that’s it. The “no friend” phrase, of course, refers very clearly to Mitt’s endless demands that the United States officially declare that whatever Benjamin Netanyahu chooses to say or do represents our own policy as well. He might as well make Bibi his Secretary of State. And the “no enemy” bit mainly refers to Iran, though also to all the Islamic bad guys who are supposedly laughing at Obama’s weakness.

What’s most interesting about Romney’s foreign policy rap, other than its belligerant emptiness, is that it is so remarkably close to the underlying foreign policy principle of the Bush-Cheney administration, which treated the entire world as composed of small and unruly children whose most important need was for “resolve” and “discipline” from Big Daddy. I thought we abundantly learned in those years that “resolve” was a poor substitute for skillful diplomacy and a foreign policy/national security strategy a bit more complicated than “cross us and we’ll blow you up.” Romney does talk a lot, though not with any clear connection to the Middle East, about free trade. At a time when Americans are more than a little ambivalent about free trade, does he really think that is going to be our triumphant, self-evidently attractive formula for addressing the world’s or the Middle East’s problems?

I dunno. Maybe we’ll discover after the election that some sort of micro-targeting is motivating Mitt’s late foreign policy push. At the moment, though, it just brings back bad memories of The Decider and his sinister Vice President.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.