Despite the low blood sugar hallucinations you may have thought you were experiencing during Clint Eastwood's speech, parts of Mitt Romney's acceptance speech should have scared you just as much. Romney's stories about his family and parents were the most sincere and heartfelt we've ever seen from this candidate. By all accounts, he succeeded in showing his emotion and personal character, but the speech veered off into a darker place as well.
In his RNC speech on Thursday, Romney fell prey to American jingoism. The Republican candidate is not known for his foreign policy prowess, especially in light of his recent gaffe-filled trip abroad to the UK, Poland, and Israel. While candidates' positions on the economy, jobs, taxes, welfare, and healthcare are of great importance in 2012, foreign policy matters too.
To be fair, Barack Obama was no foreign policy expert before he came into office either. He even made statements about threatening Pakistan because he felt they were a bigger threat than Iran and were hiding terrorists. His statements were criticized not because the intelligence was wrong, but because Pakistan was an ally, and it's not wise to announce military strategy prior to action.
Was it a mistake which highlighted Obama's inexperience? Of course. I have agreed with most of Obama's foreign policy stances and actions, but he has actually become (much to the chagrin of his loyal followers) one of the most militarily aggressive presidents.
Here is a breakdown of the very few foreign policy points of Romney's acceptance speech:
1) Roughly 70,000 American troops are in Afghanistan right now. Mitt Romney failed to mention the war at all. Clint Eastwood claimed he wants the troops to come home in one of the few clear moments of his performance Thursday. However, Eastwood failed to realize Romney has not outlined a clear vision for his Afghanistan plan.
2) "Every American is less secure today because he has failed to slow Iran’s nuclear threat," argued Romney. Still, there was no alternative solution given to the ongoing diplomatic efforts on the part of the Obama administration. There was also no explanation of how to accurately asses what a nuclear threat 'slowdown' really looks like in order to measure what progress has been made.
3) Perhaps this lack of clarity is related to Romney's further claim that "Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus." Though the relationship between Obama and Bibi Netanyahu is tense at best, he has hardly treated Israel in the way Romney describes.
Israel still has a prominent position in American foreign policy; claims of being allies with Israel pepper every speech given regarding the Middle East. Foreign policy is nothing if not a delicate dance of personality, power and complicated interests. While Israel may criticize the U.S for not taking enough action against Iran, both the U.S. and Israel have other allies as well, and there are other counties with a vested interest in regional security.
4) Romney then pointed to Obama's relaxing of sanctions against Cuba. This is not necessarily a negative point of the current administration. Sanctions do not work, especially sanctions restricting flow of information and investment — especially sanctions which are helping to keep so many Cubans are in poverty. Obama's actions in lifting "the ban on U.S. telecommunications companies reaching out to the island will flood Cuba with information while providing new opportunities for businesses," according to the White House.
5) Next, Romney criticized President Obama's 'hot mic' conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev earlier this year in South Korea. During a candid moment, Obama noted that he would have more latitude to make decisions after the 2012 election.
This criticism, coupled with Romney's reference to the "bipartisan foreign policy legacy of Truman and Reagan" to which he would return in his presidency, reveal perhaps the most telling and dangerous undertones of his speech.
Of late, Russia has made tragic decisions regarding Syria. However, calling on Truman and Reagan harkens images of the Cold War and belies the fact that Russia is no longer our most dangerous enemy, despite their stance on Syria. We cannot afford to pretend like Cold War-era policies will work in the world as we know it today.
6) Romney then moved on to the issue of China, riling up the crowd: "Does the America we want borrow a trillion dollars from China? No."
Romney is a financial man, and certainly understands that this is not as simple as an issue as he painted in the speech. America is indebted to China to finance the American lifestyle, two wars, and a massive crash of the housing sector. It may not be the America anyone wants, but it is the reality of America today. (Also, I wonder where his suit was made.)
As James Lindsay points out in the Atlantic, "leaving the foreign policy details to later means that Romney is losing the opportunity to build public understanding of the foreign policy challenges the United States faces." Romney's speech contributes to a lack of general knowledge about how America does and should conduct itself abroad.
His show of American jingoism could just be Romney's attempt to make up for his concrete foreign policy experience. While this kind of speech may serve its purpose in the small corner of the Republican National Convention, it has no place in the grander scheme of his potential role as Commander-in-Chief.