Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of three columns leading up to the Nov. 6 election. Last week, campus Republicans challenged Democrats on healthcare. Here, they argue foreign policy. The final column will focus on the economy.
By Ben Goldsmith
If you read between the lines of Romney campaign’s message on foreign policy, you’ll find a startling statement: President Obama has done a great job with foreign policy and there’s nothing that Mitt Romney would do differently.
In a campaign dominated by the economy, foreign policy has rarely taken center stage. Yet, when it has, President Obama has time and again proven that he has what it takes, while Mitt Romney has time and again offered criticism but no alternatives.
America is at a global crossroads, and we need the deft leadership President Obama has provided over the past four years. The country is at a challenging point in its history. Since 2008, the President has drawn down a decade of involvement in Iraq and wrestled with managing an Afghanistan that is sliding into disorder.
During the Arab Spring, he maintained relations with important allies while encouraging democratization. In the face of an Iran determined to develop a nuclear bomb, he rallied the international community to impose crippling sanctions.
The President has built up an impressive set of achievements, so what would Mitt Romney change? Most experts agree: not much. Both support sanctions on Iran, and neither want to resort to military strikes. Both support ending the civil war in Syria, but neither wants to send in United States troops or aircrafts. Both support ending the war in Afghanistan by 2014.
If you look carefully at Romney’s foreign policy positions, you will find his policies are very similar to the President’s. So what else can he offer? Mitt Romney has tried to offer a new vision of American foreign policy which would reassert American dominance. He argues for an assertive approach to world affairs harkening back to World War II – when the United States generated 50 percent of global GDP instead of the 20 percent it does today.
He attacks the President for making “deep and arbitrary cuts” to the military and talks of an “American Century.” Evoking the last half century, when America dominated world politics, his vision is tempting but out of touch with the realities we face. We worry about terrorism in Afghanistan and Yemen; nuclear weapons Iran and North Korea; humanitarian disasters and terrorism in Libya and Syria; and managing the rise of China. We face a sluggish growth at home and a struggling global economy.
These are not problems we can solve alone. President Obama offers another path – leadership, partnership, cooperation. As in Libya, we lead our partners in sharing the burden of providing global security. As in Egypt, we encourage democracy and non-violence while respecting national differences. We spend less on weapons and more on training military partners because we understand that in a globalized world, we cannot buy our way to security.
We acknowledge that the world needs us to lead, but we cannot dictate world affairs or go at it alone. The unipolar moment is over and tomorrow’s world will be shaped by coalitions of nations, not military superpowers. Governor Romney has already shown he is not ready for this world.
In contrast, President Obama has nimbly managed crises from Afghanistan to Iran to Libya, proving he can handle the hardest foreign policy problems the world can create. Who is better set to lead the United States in the 21st century? The choice is clear.