A Theoretical Case for a Romney Presidency From a Foreign Policy PoV.

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto is a policy analyst and part-time dungeon master. When not talking endlessly about matters of public policy, he is a dungeon master on the NWN World of Avlis

Related Post Roulette

38 Responses

  1. John Ryskamp says:

    Actually, Romney will double the defense budget because defense is welfare in the United States. He has to do it. You’d be surprised at the liberal techies in Silicon Valley who say Romney has to be elected if they are going to keep their jobs. And it’s true: tech hit a wall in March.

    That’s why Romney is going to win. If you’re not an airhead, you’ve been hearing his cues that he is going to vastly increase defense spending. It’s what Reagan also said, and it’s why Reagan was elected twice.

    Why Obama doesn’t play the defense card is beyond me. But he doesn’t, and out he goes: another loser prima donna, JUST like Carter. Sick sick sick.Report

  2. Burt Likko says:

    When the United States did not intervene on behalf of Georgia in the South Ossetian War of 2008, it helped to encourage Russian designs for a sphere of influence and eroded confidence in American power regionally. Further, the growing importance of natural gas makes the likes of Kazakhstan an important energy provider for the 21st century. Allowing Russia to establish regional hegemony would have dangerous consequences for global natural gas markets in the coming few decades.


    When the United States did not intervene on behalf of Georgia in the South Ossetian War of 2008, it helped to encourage Russian designs for a sphere of influence avoided opening up a then-third simultaneous theater of major military operations in a readily-escalatable conflict directly against a yet powerful, ICBM-armed, and wealthy opponent with a significant logistics advantage against US/NATO forces that would have been deployed there and eroded confidence in American power regionally. Further, the growing importance of natural gas makes the likes of Kazakhstan an important energy provider for the 21st century in the event that natural gas becomes, once again, as profitable as petroleum. Allowing Russia to establish regional hegemony would have dangerous consequences for global natural gas markets in the coming few decades but is an unfortunate inevitability we can only hope to mitigate.

    There. That feels more right. Not happier, but more correct.Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to Burt Likko says:

      At some point (probably after the election?) I’ll see what I can pull together in terms of a region by region overview.

      Contrary to what I’m saying in the post above, I don’t actually agree with a lot of the assumptions, and I’d be happy to explain why elsewhere. But for now, I’m trying to do my best impression of Max Boot or really Walter Russell Mead.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        If I were trying to channel Max Boot, I’d explain how a carrier group in the Black Sea, describing each weapons system thereon with Tom Clancy-like milpornographic detail, would have provided first a protective shield under which a Western-friendly government and culture would have efflouresced Georgia into a full NATO member state, and how the establishment of semi-permanent US military deployment would have not only fostered democracy, wealth, and infrastructre in Georgia and placed strategic checks against the dreadful prospect of of both Soviet Russian and Iranian expansionism.Report

      • Kim in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        “States are rational actors that can weigh the consequences of their actions.”

        That’s the one that I disagree with. 😉
        And it’s not because of Iran. (I could make a good argument with Bibi, but I think his country is going to poach him on a Stick, so… maybe I shouldn’t?)Report

  3. Stillwater says:

    Given what you’re working with, that’s a really good effort, Nob.

    Given what you’re working with.Report

  4. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Very nice analysis, Nob. I would add that the “messaging” is to be one of clarity and confidence ala Reagan more than the policy details. When America’s leadership in the world is fudgy, bad things slip in to fill the void.

    To the thesis, I agree and think it’s good to realize that the world has changed since 1956, since 1989. And the one lesson learned from neoconservatism-Dubyaism, its central failure, is of its core premise–that all men yearn to breathe free. It’s just not so. Some want economic security, some want political stability, some want sharia, all want pride and power.

    My friends on the lefter side of things are cynical about American exceptionalism, but if Machiavelli is right [and he usually is], we as a people still must feel we’re on the side of the angels in everything we do as a nation. This is how we see ourselves—as Colin Powell said in 2002:

    [F]ar from being the Great Satan, I would say that we are the Great Protector. We have sent men and women from the armed forces of the United States to other parts of the world throughout the past century to put down oppression. We defeated Fascism. We defeated Communism. We saved Europe in World War I and World War II. We were willing to do it, glad to do it. We went to Korea. We went to Vietnam. All in the interest of preserving the rights of people.

    And when all those conflicts were over, what did we do? Did we stay and conquer? Did we say, “Okay, we defeated Germany. Now Germany belongs to us? We defeated Japan, so Japan belongs to us”? No. What did we do? We built them up. We gave them democratic systems which they have embraced totally to their soul. And did we ask for any land? No, the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead. And that is the kind of nation we are.

    Bullshit, some say. But sometimes bullshit is all you’ve got, I guess. Without a vision, the people perish.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      we as a people still must feel we’re on the side of the angels in everything we do as a nation. … sometimes bullshit is all you’ve got, I guess. Without a vision, the people perish.

      Interesting argument. Very … Straussian.Report

  5. Jaybird says:

    And now I’m feeling guilty.Report

  6. DensityDuck says:

    It’s worth pointing out, though, that if the President had taken a strongly (or even vaguely) pro-Israel position in the past few years, Israel would have almost certainly bombed Iran’s nuclear-research sites the way they did Osirak.Report

    • ljdramone in reply to DensityDuck says:

      I have to disagree. In 1981, the Reagan administration was seen as being much less pro-Israel than the Carter administration had been. Reagan approved the sale of F-15s and AWACS aircraft to Saudi Arabia in spite of strong protests from Israel and the American Jewish community.

      At the time, America was taking Iraq’s side in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war (Israel was covertly supporting Iran), and Israel’s bombing of Osirak was not seen as particularly helpful by the United States.

      If Israel really wanted to bomb Iran’s nuclear installations, I believe they would have by now. I think Israel has calculated that a one-off raid like Osirak would not work.Report

  7. James Hanley says:

    Now among the front-pagers of our fine site, I am:

    Reliably liberal.
    A foreign policy writer.
    Write often from an odd mixture of realism/constructivism/liberal institutionalism.

    Ineligible to vote.

    Just to emphasize the irony of who it is that finally steps up to make the argument.Report

  8. trizzlor says:

    Are there any recent examples where this “aggressive realist” policy has been successful over the long-term?Report

    • Stillwater in reply to trizzlor says:

      Iraq, yeah? Boom! We eliminated an enemy and midwived the birth of democracy in the Middle East, bro. Simultaneous. And the Muslim world loves us for it.

      And we blunted – to the point of nonexistence! – China’s long-hoped-for military takeover of ME oil reserves. Double boom.

      You just got to look at the facts thru a colored prism, or piece of rock candy.Report

      • trizzlor in reply to Stillwater says:

        Stillwater, I am convinced by your confident, forceful tone and aggressive posture. Please spend a few more HP on wonkiness and “being a numbers guy” and you’ll have my vote.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to trizzlor says:

          Hey, I’m talking about a vision here. Check your gut, man. What’s it telling you?

          You know I’m right.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

            You have American guts, right? Or …Report

            • trizzlor in reply to Stillwater says:

              Born in the USSR. So the CommieDems got my gut, naturally.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to trizzlor says:

                That’s surprising. For some reason. What part of the USSR? I’m sure there’s a very interesting story to be told about how you ended up here. Not that I’m asking or anything …Report

              • trizzlor in reply to Stillwater says:

                Heh, you could probably guess the story. Born in Ukraine and came over here pretty young in one of those waves of Jewish engineers right around the collapse (watched Yeltsin on the tank in our Moscow communal before we left). We all lived on welfare/food-stamps for a while until the adults could re-train to computer programming and then shoot up the income ladder with the tech boom. Relatives were all Clinton Democrats, half of whom shifted hard for Israel after 9/11; which makes family get-togethers really exciting. Pretty typical post-Soviet story I would imagine, and it somehow all felt very typically American growing up. It’s weird now running into people who lived in their home-town their whole life and realizing that’s common.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to trizzlor says:

      Who cares, trizzlor? As long as we can feel good about wagging our big Anerican dick around, what else matters?Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to trizzlor says:

      No, but arguably it’s because it hasn’t been tried correctly or followed through to the end.

      …or so it goes.Report

  9. trizzlor says:

    One more points, Nob, if you’ll indulge me in your role as Theoretical Romney Supporter. One of the major criticisms of offensive realism is that it ignores non-security interests such as human rights, democracy promotion, etc. This is fine as far as it goes, but it does demand a leader who is crystal clear in his priorities. We saw what happened in Iraq when offensive realists couldn’t decide if they wanted democracy or hegemony over there. And yet Romney/Ryan are clear as mud in their priorities: they are critical of Obama for intervening in Libya to protect human rights / they are critical of Obama for not intervening in Syria to protect human rights; they are critical of Obama for working with the Russians to put together sanctions against Iran / they are critical of Obama for not acquiescing entirely to the Israelis in their military quest against Iran; and their stance on Afghanistan seems entirely divorced from any security concern whatsoever. The way I see it, Romney’s policy should be offensive (*rimshot*) even to the offensive realists because it abandons one of their primary axioms for political expediency.Report

    • Nob Akimoto in reply to trizzlor says:

      I’ll start with the ignoring non-security interests part.

      The distinction between democracy promotion interventionists (the neoconservatives essentially) and the offensive realists is that there is in fact an emphasis on Straussian national myth promotion on the neoconservative side. This is I think where some of the calculations break down between some of them.

      Romney’s current policy arguments are somewhat tinged by opportunistic attacks on the Obama Administration as much as it is based on a worldview argument. As far as I can gather what they actually want vis Afghanistan and want in Iraq (or wanted) is a robust US security presence in order to maintain forward deployment ability. Afghanistan’s location in Central Asia actually makes it a relatively strategically important locale geostrategically speaking. It’s just also very hard to lock down. I think they’d be fine with carving a consular area similar to a GITMO around Baghram, but this is getting into assumptions.Report

  10. George Turner says:

    Well, since we’ve already seen an Obama foreign policy, the best counterpoint to this piece might be a conservative’s look at a Joe Biden foreign policy. Unfortunately I can’t quite fully conceive of what that would look like, but here’s a quick stab.

    As you look at Europe, you see lots of Europeans. They look just like us but many of them talk different. The only ones that really stand out are the pizza/pasta/breadstick country and the one that makes Mercedes and BMW’s. In Central Asia you have the 7-11 slurpy countries, while in East Asia, which is actually west of Nanci Pelosi’s district, you find the people who make all the toys in the check-out aisle at Walmart.

    Then you have the Middle East, which is full of friends and enemies in no particular order, such as Iraq or Iran where we’ve had troops stationed. Going south you hit Africa, where for some reason the blacks don’t all vote as a block and fight like crips and bloods, a situation that Oprah is trying to eliminate.

    What’s important is that on the big points that matter, we put points on the board, and militarily, that we follow the advice that we told the generals to give us, even if it affects sandwich prices at delis run by ethnics of various ethnicities.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to George Turner says:

      Good grief.Report

    • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

      Yeah, and I totally forgot latin America which surely is a rich source of Bidenisms, probably observations about waiters and then veering into the complexity of burritos, that free salsa is a basic right, and something unrepeatable about Univsion’s weather girls.

      Every day Dan Quayle wakes up and give thanks for Joe Biden, because misspelling potato isn’t as bad as launching into an old Irish joke at a Boston fundraiser.Report

  11. DRS says:

    As a foreigner, the main question I have is why Americans have so little faith in anything other than military action. Vaclav Havel, who went from political prisoner to president of the Czech Republic in less than a year and knew something about standing up to tyranny, was a devoted listener to and supporter of Radio Free Europe and Voice of America. Yet I have seen RFE denigrated on many sites as ineffectual and just the kind of thing that America shouldn’t waste money on. It’s mystifying to non-Americans, just like the rabid frothing over “American exceptionalism”. A country that genuinely believed it was exceptional and was confident about it would not talk about it so much.Report

  12. Damon says:

    I think there needs to be an argument about whether or not our foreign policy should be any form of interventionism. Notice that no candidate is even challenging THAT assumption. Why not, say 100% neutral. That would have the benefit of, at least, zero hypocrisy. “The concerns of others are of no concern to us”. But we’ll happily trade with them.Report

  13. Michael Cain says:

    It appears to me that the end of the US ability to project conventional force willy-nilly across the globe is in sight. The US military machine runs on diesel and JP-8, a bit under a million barrels per day in total during peace. Global net exports of petroleum* peaked in 2005 and continue to decline. At some point — I assert that it’s probably still 25 years out — the US civilian population will simply no longer tolerate that level of liquid hydrocarbon use by the military. Once that point is reached, the Navy won’t be able to operate its 11 carrier strike groups; the Air Force won’t operate 5500 aircraft; and the Army won’t be able to keep the mechanized support for a half-million soldiers running.

    The most recent Joint Operating Environment document specifically points out that $100/barrel oil requires the military to shift spending from people and equipment to fuel. All three branches have their own research programs looking for affordable non-petroleum sources of liquid fuels, or ways to generate electricity that don’t require liquid fuels (so the fuel can go into tanks and planes and ships that can’t be electrified). Even if the programs are somewhat successful, it seems quite unlikely to me that the civilian population will tolerate the military continuing to use a million barrels per day if the civilian sector is having to get by on much less. Despite the neo-cons best efforts, the civilian population is not going to place ongoing interventions in the same category as WWII, the last time that the public was willing to sacrifice its use of fuel to the military.

    This reality will force a rather dramatic change in US foreign policy.

    *GNE is the amount of oil exported by countries that produce more petroleum than they consume (eg Russia, Saudi Arabia, Canada). For oil-importing countries like the US or China, GNE matters more than total global production: you can’t import oil unless someone is willing to export it.Report

  14. Gary Stark says:

    This idea that US foreign policy should be all about dominating the world with our military might needs to give way to a more important approach…creating a world that’s better for the US and the rest of the world. This would make for a better US foreign policy…


    And btw, it will save money.


    • Stillwater in reply to Gary Stark says:

      I remember reading a paper outlining the US approach to world affairs given the rise of China as a potential rival to US dominance. The idea was that the Chinese are gaining an increasingly large sphere of influence by engaging in positive sum exchanges of goods, services, money, etc, often way above “market price”. The thesis was that the US cannot compete with this type of expansionism because we don’t have the money, so in order to maintain our dominance we must use military power.

      I thought the thesis was interesting, not because it expresses the prevailing view of US elites think that US power is the best method to ensure and maintain our status as the world’s sole superpower (I think that’s been the view since WWII), but because of the implied admission that the US isn’t interested and in fact cannot extend and maintain its power via win-win economic agreements with other countries.Report