Romney’s foreign policy message: God is on our side

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.

‘American ambivalence’
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.

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Comments (27)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/11/2011 - 10:47 am.

    Yes, did God create America in a way that He didn’t create the United Kingdom, or perhaps the Weimar Republic? It’s a fascinating question.

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/11/2011 - 11:01 am.

    Mormonism creeping in–after all, America is the second Israel and the ol’ stompin’ grounds of Jesus after he shook the dust of Golgotha off of his heels.

    Does the religion of a “made” Mormon affect their world-view? Why not, if Bachmann is willing to go toe-to-toe with Iran over Israel because of the Armageddon tale.

    The biggest, real-life lesson that has been ignored from as far back as the Vietnam War, is that history, ideas and beliefs matter and that it is possible to fight the US to a standstill with not much more than RPG’s and AK47’s if your history, ideas and beliefs are what you are willing to die for.

    The mightiest military doesn’t matter when any battle creates more enemies that it pacifies.

  3. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 10/11/2011 - 11:30 am.

    Well, at least it answers the question that a Mormon can be an Evangelical Christian when it comes to foreign policy.

  4. Submitted by Lee Jones on 10/11/2011 - 11:31 am.

    I think the rest of the world will be rubbing its hands with glee to hear a potential future President talking as if it’s 1961, not 2011.

    Keep it up Mitt, because the tighter you tie that star-spangled blindfold over your eyes, the further behind the US will be in the future global market.

    Young Americans have two choices – listen to this drivel or ignore it. Those who ignore it and embrace the world, which is now closer than ever to these shores, will find prosperity. It may not be in America, but they’ll find it.

  5. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 10/11/2011 - 12:06 pm.

    But Romney appears to be their most “sensible” candidate. That’s what David Brooks says. And possibly he’s right, compared to Perry, Cain, and others.
    And that means he could be electable.
    Most Americans, unfortunately, with little historical understanding (especially beyond American history) would probably unthinkingly agree with him.
    He’s dangerous. The others are worse.

  6. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 10/11/2011 - 12:16 pm.

    Black, this is one of your finest. Thanks from this reader.

    Romney is strange boy, who thinks his presidency is but a Captain-May-I game and he assuming this nation is full of would-be followers taking baby steps; or too often giant steps on Mitt’s command?

    That’s what Wall Street Walk is attempting to disengage from; the unacceptable; the Romney’s, the Bachmann’s etc… the god-awful stalemate we’re in.

    And Romney’s Who’s-God is a faceless creature walking on the heels of his maker,Milty, ho! Now there’s a sad image to contemplate.

    Reading Pepe Escobar “The Roving Reporter” over at Asia Times online this fine morning, “Liquid Modernity, Solid Elites”; his poetic but substantive narrative… it says to me, that this nation needs to recognize the garden path we’re being led down, is full of old weeds and few flowers to praise our past exploitations.

    Hold these grim truths to be self-evident, that we as a nation too often suffers from a savior complex stretched into imperialist acts toward others and other nations…and wisely need to recognize our failures and our potential attributes; and promote the latter?

    Now that Bachmann is visibly flailing…is this a part of another series on Romney candidacy? Go for it.

    Republicans have lost face by scuttling their own credibility…note how rarely the word “Independent” titles the Republican Party anymore. At least some progressives and a few from the unaffiliated left had Republican roots… but no more. Lost a number I heard, after the R. party’s ‘heresies’ advocated by the present gang of conservative fundamentalist followers.

  7. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/11/2011 - 12:23 pm.

    In other words:
    God help us!

  8. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/11/2011 - 12:44 pm.

    No need to write that book, Eric. J. William Fulbright did it a generation ago with “The Arrogance of Power,” and I’m now reading Jack Matlock’s “Superpower Illusions.” They reach similar conclusions, and neither was written by what someone outside the loony fringe of the right wing would call a “liberal.” The details vary with the time period, of course, but every great power since history first began to be recorded has insisted on pretty much the same thing: whatever higher power(s) they believed in were assumed to be “on their side.” It would be laughable if it weren’t simultaneously arrogant, stupid, and very, very dangerous for the citizens of that nation. I’ve seen nothing in my adult years to suggest that the United States is any different from its predecessors in this regard.

    Some folks, Mr. Romney among them, sadly, have their ideological blinders screwed on extra-tight. Coupled with a willful ignorance of history, it’s a dangerous, potentially fatal, combination. As Ginny points out, Romney is widely regarded by the mainstream as the more “sensible” of the current slate of Republican possibilities, so I have to agree with her. Romney is dangerous. The others are worse.

    Neal’s last sentence in #2 is right on-point.

  9. Submitted by Bruce Johnson on 10/11/2011 - 01:10 pm.

    If Romney is elected our only hope is that this is just another example of his willingness to say anything to get the nomination away from others who are even more irresponsible and ignorant. But even that dim hope is tempered by the fact that he has surrounded himself now with former Bush policy advisers who seem to be willfully in denial of the crimes of that administration. I wish they could be reminded by a few prosecutions.

  10. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 10/11/2011 - 01:28 pm.

    Seems like the people that start the wars and oppress other nations like to say that God is on their side.

    People who seek peace and freedom for all ask if they are on God’s side, not if God is on their side. I don’t think this is some touchy feely new age thing but a statement of our true relationship to God. I don’t hear this much from politically conservative Christians.

  11. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/11/2011 - 01:52 pm.

    I’m left with this deeply-troubling question regarding a (remotely) possible Romney presidency:

    His completely blinded, American Empire, dominate-the-world beliefs are bound to translate into policies which will cost the American Public billions (if not multiple trillions) of dollars (a la “W”),…

    Since Romney and his rich cronies already have most of the money in this country and refuse to lighten the burdens of any of their workers by actually hiring more employees who would pay taxes on their wages, and REFUSE to pay taxes themselves,


    I fear the answer is NOwhere, but our mathematically-challenged wealthy elites, including Romney, himself, have already proven they have only one approach to that issue: They’ll pretend that that’s not a problem (“deficits don’t matter” when Republicans run them up)…

    right up until they trigger a US financial crash which will, in turn, cause a world financial collapse paralleling the dark ages or Europe (after which they’ll blame the “worthless, lazy poor” for causing it).

  12. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/11/2011 - 02:24 pm.

    You know Eric, it sure looks like Mitt had a lot more to say about foreign policy than teh God thing you trotted out.

    But even if that *was* all he really did have to say on the subject it would be volumes more than Obama did during his big Hopey/Changey(TM) Tour ’08; but you voted for him anyway…didn’t you?

    Sure ya did.

  13. Submitted by Carter Anderson on 10/11/2011 - 03:15 pm.

    Greg Kapphahn

    It is time to come out from under your rock and stop lying to yourself. First off, Mitt has an equal chance of winning as Obama. To pretend anything else is either incredibly stupid or naive. You pick. Second, Obama has actually doubled the Bush war effort. If you are going to blame Bush for Iraq, than you must blame Obama for Afghanistan and Libya. The Republican party has hundreds of faults. There is zero reason to make one up.

  14. Submitted by Carter Anderson on 10/11/2011 - 03:17 pm.

    Thomas Swift

    do you really need to ask that question?

  15. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/11/2011 - 03:22 pm.

    Oh, and one more thought. As God proved time and time again to our ancient Hebrew ancestors,…

    God is on GOD’s side,…

    but is quite willing to work with anyone in any human society who is allowing God to inspire them to seek to bring their culture and their society more in line with God’s own dreams for the people of this planet and the planet itself.

    God would NEVER be so foolish as to actually indicate that any one culture, any one society, nor any one religious group were reliably worthy of God’s continuous blessing over and above any other group.

    (and in my humble opinion, any group who claims otherwise, who claims that “god is on our side (and no one else’s)” has created their own “god” who, strangely enough, always looks a GREAT deal like themselves, and always hates and desires to punish EXACTLY the same people as that “god’s” creators hate and wish to punish).

    Such folks never seem nearly as interested in whether or not they are doing God’s work in the world as they are in trying to figure out how to get “god” to do their own bidding, which, overall, is a very ancient, tribal, and, ultimately, quite pagan notion of “god.”

  16. Submitted by Arvonne Fraser on 10/11/2011 - 03:41 pm.

    Nice to have a reporter who reads political speeches carefully and really thinks about what the candidate is thinking. That speech is about as smart as taking your dog for a ride on the top of a car.

  17. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 10/11/2011 - 03:41 pm.

    Greg, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt like your launching pad.

  18. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/11/2011 - 04:04 pm.

    Carter says:…If you are going to blame Bush for Iraq, than you must blame Obama for Afghanistan and Libya…

    Perhaps you don’t realize that the war in Afghanistan was initiated by GWB. Perhaps his policy of benign neglect of that conflict for 7 years served to dull your memory of exactly when that war begain.

    So Bush deserves blame for Afghanistan also–a double helping of presidential terms of screwing the dog with respect to bringing some sort of completion to the war in the only country that had something remotely to do with 911 (besides Saudi Arabia and Pakistan).

    And, are you comparing the nature and size of the involvement in Libya with Iraq and Afghanistan? Really?

    And you want your comments to be taken seriously? Really?

  19. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 10/11/2011 - 05:05 pm.

    If Mitt were to look around the world, he’d see China developing trade relations with Middle Eastern and other countries. He’d see Russia cultivating Venezuela as a source for oil instead of trying to subvert its democratic elections.
    What he wouldn’t see is an attempt by either to dominate other countries.

    He’d see, in short, that military power runs a poor second to mutually respectful relationships with other countries. The U.S. quest for Empire is as much a waste of time, treasure and blood as the War on Terror and the quest to hunt down and kill or capture every “terrorist” who walks the earth..

  20. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 10/11/2011 - 08:03 pm.

    Romney’s speech sounds like he plagiarized Reagan.

  21. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/11/2011 - 10:08 pm.

    I’m not a Romney man by any stretch of the imagination. But he’s ten times the man that Obama is. But hell, Palin is ten times the man Obama is.

  22. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/11/2011 - 10:09 pm.

    It’s strange that the only people who seem to be concerned about Romney’s religion are the godless liberals.

  23. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/12/2011 - 07:14 am.

    This is an election between someone no one is really passionate about, and someone everyone is disappointed in. We really need a third party…..

  24. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/12/2011 - 07:46 am.

    You all do realize that this a manifest destiny theme that’s been part of the American narrative/myth for over 300 years right?

    Mark Twain’s “War Prayer” comes to mind for some reason:

  25. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/12/2011 - 07:50 am.

    (#22) an especially clueless version of Tester:…It’s strange that the only people who seem to be concerned about Romney’s religion are the godless liberals….

    The “only people”?

    Any idea why “anyone but Romney” is the flavor of the day for Christian conservatives?

    Check it out, you’ll probably be surprised.

  26. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/12/2011 - 11:53 am.

    “Any idea why “anyone but Romney” is the flavor of the day for Christian conservatives?”

    Yeah Neal, it has to do with his conservative bonefides, not his faith.

    The republicans had no problem electing a pacifist Quaker in Nixon. Why would they summarily dismiss a member of the Church of *Jesus Christ* of Latter-Day Saints?

  27. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/13/2011 - 12:20 pm.

    The Republicans who nominated Nixon went out with Goldwater.
    And there is a difference between Quakers and Mormons; found this online:

    “Nixon, and his mother, were members of the “fundamentalist” (Nixon’s own words) East Whittier Friends Church in Orange County, California.

    The “Friends Church” should not be confused with the “Religious Society of Friends,” though both consider themselves to be Quaker. Most of what people know about Quakers come from the Society of Friends, an organization dating back to colonial Pennsylvania and Maryland and pre-renaissance England. The Friends Church, which Nixon was a lifelong member of, is a western 1800s spinoff merging some Quaker traditions with Methodist ministry, and focuses on fundamental protestant teachings. Its sermons appear alien to those used to more traditional Quaker meetings.

    The two religions, though they both call themselves “Quaker”, share little in common.”

    So, while he was raised in a Quaker (though not a traditional one) household, there is no indication that he was active in that religion as an adult.

    Certainly, the Nixon of the Watergate tapes would be alien to most Quakers.

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