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Arguing for something is hard. You have to build a case. Collect evidence. Then you have to sell it, framing the policy or idea as best you can.
Criticism is much easier. All you have to do is point out flaws, and everything has a flaw.
Take politics, for instance. Americans love to complain about our political system, pointing to out-of-control corporate spending, a gridlocked Capitol Hill, or a media that doesn’t hold politicians accountable, shouting, “Our government doesn’t work!” They rarely point out solutions or offer alternatives, because pointing out solutions is tough work. Anyone can complain; very few people can propose relevant, new solutions.
On V hates that. Don’t just criticize...offer an alternative.
Which brings us to Mitt Romney. The Romney campaign offers plenty of criticisms, while staying vague on the details. (The biggest example so far? The math behind his plan to lower income tax rates.) I understand why politicians, especially one challenging an incumbent, avoid discussing specifics. Why offer something your opponent can criticize? It just leaves you open to attack. Saying nothing risks nothing.
Which makes writing about Romney’s positions on foreign policy almost impossible. As The Telegraph summarized, “What would a Romney-Ryan administration actually do differently from President Obama when it comes to foreign affairs? Beyond the sabre rattling, specifics are scarce.” The last debate only furthered that sentiment. That said, based on what Romney has said in speeches and written on his website, we’re going to dive into Mitt Romney’s policies on foreign affairs, defense spending and veteran’s affairs. We’ll try to answer the question, “Do we agree or disagree with Romney’s policy positions?”
Mitt Romney’s Worldview - On V Disagrees
As Michael decried a few weeks ago, it seems like every president from now to eternity will have a foreign policy “doctrine” attached to their name. We can sum up Mitt Romney’s doctrine in two words:
He wrote an entire memoir with that title, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. Romney incorrectly blames President Obama for “apologizing for America.” Politifact quotes Romney saying (inaccurately), “I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour."
This emphasis on apologies makes us conclude that Romney might be a financial sheep in neo-conservative wolf clothing. He might simply be pandering to his Republican base, but Romney still talks a great neo-conservative game with neo-con thoughts like:
1. Never apologize for America.
2. America has plenty of enemies in the world. Russia is our greatest geo-political foe; Iran is the world’s greatest threat; China is our rival. Neo-conservatives see a dangerous world they must constantly fight. Romney embraces that, even though none of it is true.
3. The President of the U.S. controls the thoughts and actions of foreign leaders and people.
4. The only thing that matters in foreign policy is strength through military spending. (More on this later.)
As a result, former Bush administration foreign policy folks, especially ones with neo-conservative bents, crowd Mitt Romney’s team. Frankly, we don’t need that foreign policy worldview in the White House again.
Iran - On V Disagrees
Like most Republican candidates in this election cycle, Mitt Romney hasn’t spelled out a different policy than President Obama regarding Iran. He just says--vaguely reminiscent of Herman Cain on Obama’s handling of Libya--that he would do the same things, but better. On Meet the Press, outside of panning Obama’s “policy of engagement”, Romney would encourage sanctions (“which, by the way, the president's finally getting closer to,” Romney admits.) and military action, though he remained vague on when or how he would use it.
When it comes to novel solutions, candidate Romney doesn’t offer any. Like Obama, he hasn’t vigorously ruled out a war with Iran. Obviously, we disagree.
Defense Spending - On V Disagrees
On the issue of defense spending, Mitt Romney has been very specific on what he’d do: increase it. While On Violence believes the military spends money like a drunken soldier on mid-tour leave, a would-be President Romney sees no harm in exploding the size of the Pentagon’s budget. Instead of just opposing defense cuts under coming sequestration (which he incorrectly blames on Obama), Romney wants to ramp up the budget to levels that, in comparative terms, would be the greatest increase since World War II. (For more, check out this excellent guest post at “The Best Defense” by Travis Sharp.)
Defense spending has increased over 50% since 9/11, way outpacing inflation. Even Romney admits, “The Department’s bureaucracy is bloated to the point of dysfunction and is ripe for being pared.” As we too wrote on "The Best Defense" last week, Romney is taking the wrong approach with the Pentagon.
Veterans Affairs - On V Disagrees
Romney cannot cut the deficit while increasing military spending...unless he cuts spending on our veterans. Right now, according to Mitt Romney’s budget outlines, defense spending will skyrocket with no word on whether he will increase spending at the Veteran Affairs department. As this Daily Beast article worries, a Romney presidency could mean drastically reduced veterans services...just like the Bush administration.
Afghanistan - On V Agrees
Mitt Romney has the exact same plan as President Obama: talk with commanders on the ground, get their advice, and then make a decision. In the recent debate, he hinted he will stick with the current timeline, then added some caveats. On Violence would much rather hear either candidate promise to remove all troops from Afghanistan as quickly as possible, but this policy will work until then.