Mitt Romney’s speech to the Republican National Convention on Thursday night was riddled with misleading claims and critical omissions. In no section was this more true than Romney’s discussion of foreign policy. The GOP presidential nominee devoted only 202 words to national security and while his speech completely ignored the war in Afghanistan and any homage to American servicemembers, it contained a shocking number of misstatements and false and baseless attacks on President Obama:
1. Obama and America: “I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour. America, he said, had dictated to other nations. No Mr. President, America has freed other nations from dictators.”
THE FACTS: The notion that Obama went on an “apology tour” has been repeatedly and conclusively debunked, though it remains a staple of Romney’s post-truth campaign. The “dictated” line is likely of a similar provenance, but there’s an irony to the second half of that sentence — Obama has “freed other nations from dictators,” as he helped form and lead an international coalition that toppled Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. Romney’s position on the Libya intervention, by contrast, was something of an incoherent muddle.
2. Iran: “Every American was relieved the day President Obama gave the order, and Seal Team Six took out Osama bin Laden. But on another front, every American is less secure today because he has failed to slow Iran’s nuclear threat. In his first TV interview as president, he said we should talk to Iran. We’re still talking, and Iran’s centrifuges are still spinning.”
THE FACTS: There’s a reason the President decided to talk to Iran — the Obama administration is quite aware of the consequences of a nuclear weapons-equipped Iran, if its leaders decide to go that route, and has determined that diplomacy presents the “best and most permanent” means of resolving the crisis. Moreover, the diplomatic approach has produced concrete dividends. While Iran hasn’t capitulated, signalling that America was willing to talk to Iran helped build international support for significantly stepped-up sanctions. Contra Romney, the new sanctions imposed by Obama’s coalition have unequivocally slowed Iran’s nuclear progress by limiting its ability to acquire critical materiel, according to the U.N. and the Pentagon. Perhaps that’s why, when they’re not hinting at starting a devastating war, Romney advisers and surrogates have been unable to differentiate their candidate’s policy from the status quo.
3. Israel and Cuba: “President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus, even as he has relaxed sanctions on Castro’s Cuba.”
THE FACTS: The claim about Israel is utterly false; both stepped-up U.S. defense assistance and the statements of Israel’s own leaders testify to Obama’s record. As for Cuba, it’s true that Obama has relaxed restrictions on travel to Cuba, but that’s a good thing. The Cuba embargo is is an obviously failed policy with serious human costs, giving the Castro regime an excuse for the failures of communism while immiserating ordinary Cubans.
4. Russia and Poland: “[Obama] abandoned our friends in Poland by walking away from our missile defense commitments, but is eager to give Russia’s President Putin the flexibility he desires, after the election. Under my administration, our friends will see more loyalty, and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone.”
THE FACTS: Romney conveniently ignores that Obama’s new missile defense plan provided Poland with a system it was “ready to participate” in, perhaps because Polish officials preferred it to the previous arrangement. Obama’s “flexibility” comment to Putin didn’t really worry Eastern European governments, but Romney’s hostile rhetoric about Russia is alienating a country whose cooperation is important on U.S. priorities like the Iranian nuclear program.
Romney concluded his remarks by saying “We will honor America’s democratic ideals because a free world is a more peaceful world. This is the bipartisan foreign policy legacy of Truman and Reagan. And under my presidency we will return to it once again.” Setting aside the strange implication that Obama represents a radical break with the last 50 years of American foreign policy, it’s clear that Romney’s interpretation of how to best secure a more peaceful world is dangerously off. As scholars Bruce Jentleson and Charles Kupchan put it before the address, Romney’s “core world view” is “a global assessment distorted by ideological excess, pledged to wield power in a way that will leave the nation weakened and isolated, and demonstrated a failure to appreciate the key linkages between strength at home and influence abroad.” This speech is more evidence that we should believe them.