The Repub candidates for prez will meet tonight in New Hampshire (of all places) for a debate focusing entirely on the economy. I hope the singular focus will make it easier to get past bromides and achieve substance. Over the weekend, frontrunner Mitt Romney gave a single-focus address on foreign/military policy, in which I found little probative value. It was more like a candidate daring to endorse Israel’s right to exist at an AIPAC meeting.
The Romney message boiled down to this: Obama, “feckless;” America, great and beloved by all right-thinking nations; God, on our side; the rest of the world, lucky to have us, unless they piss us off, in which case we might just have to kill them.
I’ve confessed once before that I would like to write a book about what might be called the blindingness of Americanness. Romney’s speech (full text of it here) could be Chapter 1.
When you are self-blindingly the world’s only military superpower, it naturally occurs to you that this is the natural world order and that anyone (any foreign nation, that is) who even aspires to superpower status is trying to pull a fast one.
“China has made it clear that it intends to be a military and economic superpower,” Romney what – warns? “Will her rulers lead their people to a new era of freedom and prosperity or will they go down a darker path, intimidating their neighbors, brushing aside an inferior American Navy in the Pacific, and building a global alliance of authoritarian states?”
Just to focus on that one, seemingly unremarkable passage (for those of us living in willful self-imposed blindness) Romney just assumes that such aspirations must be crushed for the good of not only America but the world. He also smuggles in the absolutely ludicrous aside that the United States currently possesses something other than the most power Navy in the history of Earth.
Romney then implies that the rest of the world must be protected from any unneighborly “intimidation,” as if he does not aspire to be president of the nation that has conquered, invaded, invaded by proxy, or simply intimidated by economic threat about half of the nations in its own Central and South American neighborhood. Do you need the list of neighborly aggressions by the world’s favorite superpower? I’ll save it for another day.
Romney looks at the special relationship between Washington and Israel and sees it as one of “American ambivalence.” Seriously, that’s a direct quote, although one assumes he means only during the Obama years.
He brings up the danger of Pakistan, which, he says, has “more than 100 nuclear weapons,” without mentioning that the United States has more than 5,000. He is alarmed that Russia has a leader (Vladimir Putin) who views the breakup of the Soviet Union as a “great tragedy.” He worries about the negative impact that the “malign [sic] socialism” of Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela and Castro’s Cuba might have “on the prospects of democracy in a region thirsting for freedom and stability and prosperity,” without acknowledging that Chavez gained power by election nor that the United States has enjoyed warm relationships with many Latin dictators and has overthrown or undermined more democracies in that region than China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran combined (since their combined total would be zero).
When former Gov. Romney looks around the world, he sees “a handful of major forces that vie with America and free nations, to shape the world in an image of their choosing. These are not exclusively military threats. Rather, they are determined, powerful forces that may threaten freedom, prosperity, and America’s national interests.”
America and military power
If you do Romney the kindness of reading him carefully and taking him seriously, you have to note that unless you are on board with the lay religion of Americanness, this is an assertion that America needs military power – more power than it already possesses, apparently, even though it already possesses more power than any nation in the history of the world and spends more on its military than the rest of the world combined — not just to protect itself but for any of the other threats to freedom, prosperity or anything at all that a given president might decide to designate as in “America’s national interest.”
I referred to Americanness as a lay religion. But the layness is compromised when people bring God into it, as they often do. Romney, for example, refers directly to God’s purpose in “creating” the USA,” and that purpose was to rule — excuse me, to lead — the world
“God did not create this country to be a nation of followers. America is not destined to be one of several equally balanced global powers. America must lead the world, or someone else will… Some may ask, ‘Why America? Why should America be any different than scores of other countries around the globe?’
“I believe we are an exceptional country with a unique destiny and role in the world. Not exceptional, as the President has derisively said, in the way that the British think Great Britain is exceptional or the Greeks think Greece is exceptional. In Barack Obama’s profoundly mistaken view, there is nothing unique about the United States.”
Romney believes the United States must also be the leader of the United Nations and other multilateral organizations (organizations that, he notes in an aside, are overly fond of negotiations). But at the same time that the U.N. is under our leadership, we must not be subordinated to the rulings of the world body, says Romney. Complying with the wishes of the rest of the world, as expressed through the U.N., is for some, but not for us.
Well, there’s more in the full speech, which I commend to your attention. And, in fact, if you read it over quickly, it really just sounds like boilerplate, a speech that any presidential candidate might give. And it is. The blindingness of Americanness works that way. If you assert that America needs more weapons and a president who is very willing to use them (but only for the good of humanity, of course), it sounds quite normal. If you say anything else, you may be called something even less manly than feckless.