Now that the panderthon of the primary season has come to a close, preaching to the choir of the conventions is a distant political memory, and following a decisive victory over an incumbent president in the first televised debate, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is outlined his view on American foreign policy … one of a handful of actual policy areas where the president has direct control (read the full speech here).
This is a list of policy topics that the candidate should have outlined:
1) Europe – The social and economic ties with Europe are of growing importance to the United States. It used to be that when American sneezed, Europe would catch a cold. Today, the economic uncertainty of the region is weighing down on the American economic recovery. He must stress America’s continued commitment to Europe in terms of defense and trade, with an emphasis on the need to stabilize and retain the European integrated currency. In doing so, he will show that the long-standing policies and mutual collaboration will continue to be strong, as we need an economically and militarily healthy Europe. Specifically, Romney should encourage European leaders to engage in domestic energy production – like fracking – in order to develop an energy independent Europe that can withstand sanctions and possible instability in the energy market brought on by events in the Middle East, Iran, and Russia.
2) Middle East – With the situation in the Middle East and North Africa being as unstable as they are, Romney will have to strike a balance between the traditional stick-and-carrot approach and pandering to the hawks of the Republican Party. The most important realization to keep in mind is that America and that region do not exist in a political vacuum, where we can choose to disengage and even consider pulling our financial support. We should consider earmarking financial support to the new democracies for institution building: committing funds to the training and development of an independent judiciary and civic organizations. It may be worthwhile to suggest a summit for new democracies in Washington, D.C., to recognize the new democratic leaders and provide some legitimacy to the new states. When it comes to the question of Israel and Iran, he will be sure to draw the definitive “red line” on the nuclear question, to draw what would appear to be a significant difference with President Obama. In real terms, not much difference will be found as the president has kept all options on the table and has continued all of the military and financial aid to the Jewish State.
3) Russia/ China/ Iran – With continued instability in the region and a threat for a nuclear Iran, it is increasingly important to establish a system of anti-ballistic defense around NATO member states. Romney should propose the missile installations that President Bush pushed through in his last days in office and President Obama pulled back in the first days of his administration. Having such defense capabilities will send a strong message to Russia that we are committed to improving the defense infrastructure of NATO, will provide a similar defensive posture directed at China, and will send a unifying message to Iran. He must mention and recognize the success that the sanctions are having on Iran and commit to the continuation of such policies until the rogue state abandons their nuclear ambitions.
4) China and Asia – China is a growing and developing super power and there is very little that can change that. We must continue to strengthen our relations with that state and that region. China has continued to flex its muscles in the region and it is likely that new disputes over territorial waters will come up. America must lead along side with Japan and Taiwan on forming a strong Pacific union to support the smaller nations in the region. Threatening to bring cases to the WTO can be counterproductive, but speaking to issues of human rights and dignity will strike a contrast with the current administration.
5) Afghanistan – Romney asked about the difference between setting a date certain and bringing our troops home. He could propose to begin the withdrawal in the coming months and complete it by the spring. He could stress that we have met our mission and it is time for the Afghans to defend themselves and their interests. We will no longer have a ground presence, but will provide air support. This could signal a substantive change to contrast with the current administration position and define Romney as an actual anti-war candidate.
6) Latin America – The Obama administration has seemingly forgotten about trade with our neighbors south of the border, focusing on “fast and furious” and Canadian tar sands. Romney could re-emphasize our commitment to our continent and hemispheric cooperation. Remind Americans of the great successes in Columbia and Panama.
I know that this is a very limited article and does not do justice to the complexities of the issues in each section. However, there are important “big picture” tones that the candidate could own in the build up to the next debate. Drawing contrasts is what he should be doing and attempting to lead in the conversation instead of follow.