Mitt Romney’s eagerly awaited foreign policy speech at the Citadel was welcomed by neoconservative hawks who supported the George W. Bush administration’s adventurist foreign policy. But Romney’s speech stood out in that it was full of dire predictions for the future — indeed some were downright apocalyptic — while offering few if any policy responses to confront these supposedly deadly challenges to American national security.
In the first minutes of his speech Romney warned that the next four years could pose a series of potentially devastating foreign policy challenges. He predicted: Iran could hold the Middle East hostage with a nuclear weapon; Obama’s scale-down of U.S. forces in Afghanistan will bring the Taliban back to power; Islamic jihadists will acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan; China will “brush aside” American naval “inferiority” in the Pacific; and Cuba and Venezuela will undermine the prospects of democracy in the region.
But in response to these dire challenges facing the U.S. — and more broadly the entire world — Romney suggests that the Pentagon increase the shipbuilding rate from 9 per year to 15 and permanently station an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.
Other than boosting defense spending — which is a terrible idea in its own right — Romney has few if any specific policy prescriptions. Instead, his response to the foreign policy challenges — whether real or imagined — facing the U.S. is laid out later in his speech. He says:
This century must be an American Century. In an American Century, America has the strongest economy and the strongest military in the world. In an American Century, America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world.
While the notion of an “American Century” is not new — a number of the foreign policy positions associated with the George W. Bush administration were first promoted by the Project for the New American Century — the lack of policy specifics in Romney’s speech is noticeable, especially in light of the existential threats he says are facing the U.S. Simplistic notions of American military power as a democratizing force in the world were put to the test in Afghanistan and Iraq during the George W. Bush administration. Even leading neoconservatives such as Richard Perle, David Frum, and Kenneth Adelman criticized the Bush administration for its execution of the war in Iraq and its loosely defined “freedom agenda.”
As Romney frames his foreign policy along similar lines, he may face tough questions about how he intends to combat the long list of threats he says are bearing down on the U.S.