News & Politics

5 Ways Mitt Romney Would Double Down on U.S. Empire and Hegemony

Romney's Virgina speech on foreign policy was boilerplate content, with nods to the belligerent neoconservative wing of the Republican Party.

Mitt Romney put foreign policy squarely back in the spotlight with his speech at the Virginia Military Institute today.

Romney launched a rhetorical attack on the Obama administration’s foreign policy, focusing on the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya that killed American ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.

“The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts.  They are expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East,” said Romney, noting that it was likely an Al Qaeda affiliate who attacked the U.S. embassy.

The GOP candidate added that “the blame for the murder of our people in Libya, and the attacks on our embassies in so many other countries, lies solely with those who carried them out—no one else.  But it is the responsibility of our President to use America’s great power to shape history—not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events.”

He also laid out a broad foreign policy vision that called for the U.S. to “lead the course of human events” with “more American leadership.”

In other words, it was a boilerplate speech with nods to the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, a wing that leads his foreign policy team as well. But asWired’s Spencer Ackerman notes, “the policies Romney outlines in his speech differ, at most, superficially from Obama’s.” Obama’s record on foreign policy is an aggressive one, with escalated drone strikes that have killed scores of civilians in Pakistan and Yemen and the continuation of the war in Afghanistan. Romney didn’t offer anything specific that was more aggressive than Obama, though his rhetoric was ratcheted up.

But if Romney’s speech didn’t contain new ideas, that doesn’t mean they were necessarily good ones. In fact, the prescriptions he offers for U.S. foreign policy will deepen the commitment to U.S. empire and hegemony. Here are 5 bad ideas Romney offered in his foreign policy speech.

1. More American Meddling Around the World

When Romney says “the 21st century can and must be an American century” and that is the U.S.’s responsibility to steer the world towards “the path of freedom, peace, and prosperity,” that’s code for the maintenance of U.S. hegemony. Romney still believes that the U.S. should be able to shape the world as we see fit--the rest of the world who refuses to go along with it be damned. These ideas are particularly galling given that Romney was partly addressing the Arab Spring--a series of revolts that were decidedly against U.S. support for repressive dictatorships.

Romney also believes that in the case of Iran, “American support”--read meddling-- for the opposition in that country would be helpful. But that ignores the fact that the Green movement in Iran did not want U.S. support and intervention.

The Republican candidate also lamented the fact that “America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence.”

Lastly, he hinted that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan could continue for years to come if he was president. “The route to more war – and to potential attacks here at home – is a politically timed retreat that abandons the Afghan people to the same extremists who ravaged their country and used it to launch the attacks of 9/11,” the candidate said. “I will evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the best advice of our military commanders.”

2. Belligerence Towards Iran

The Obama administration, with the pushing of an eager U.S. Congress, has implemented extremely tough sanctions on Iran already--so much so that the Iranian rial’s value has been in freefall recently, with reports that the sanctions are causing food insecurity and medicine shortages. But Romney wants more belligerence towards Iran.

“I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have. I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region,” said Romney.

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An approach like this will put the U.S. on a clearer path to a catostrophic military conflict with Iran.

3. Increased Military Spending

The world Romney wants to see is one where militarization increases and armament makers profit more. Referring to the U.S., Romney “complained that our defense spending is being arbitrarily and deeply cut...I will make the critical defense investments that we need to remain secure.”

As for the rest of the world, Romney wants the same: an increase in spending on militaries at a time of austerity and budget cutting that is wreaking havoc on the lives of Europeans. “I will call on our NATO allies to keep the greatest military alliance in history strong by honoring their commitment to each devote 2 percent of their GDP to security spending. Today, only 3 of the 28 NATO nations meet this benchmark,” Romney vowed.

4. Neoliberal Trade Agreements

Romney wants more so-called free trade agreements, which in reality are agreements that often hurt workers around the globe.

“I will champion free trade and restore it as a critical element of our strategy, both in the Middle East and across the world,” said the former Massachusetts governor.

He also made a misleading remark when he claimed that “the President has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years.” While it is true that negotiations over the trade agreements Obama has signed began before he took office, it is a distortion to imply that Obama didn’t sign free trade agreements. Agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea have been signed by Obama--and as Politico notes, they were implemented “in defiance of what labor groups, a major Democratic constitutency, wanted.”

5. More Military Assistance to Israel

President Obama has already increased the amount of military aid the U.S. gives to Israel to unprecedented levels. But Romney wants Israel, a state that is occupying Palestinian land and threatening Iran with war, to receive more.

Romney said that he would “work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination.” Israel already receives 3.1 billion in military aid from the U.S.--aid that directly bolsters the occupation and the building of illegal settlements in the occupied territories, since the Israeli military solely protects settlers in the West Bank.

This military aid would be sent with a blank check. Romney vowed that under his presidency, “the world must never see any daylight between our two nations.” In practice, this would mean that no matter what Israel did with U.S. weaponry, a Romney administration would never criticize the state publically. This has largely been the stance the U.S. has taken in recent history, and it has been catastrophic for the people of Palestine and Lebanon.


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.