Three Foreign Policy/National Security Reasons to Elect Mitt Romney; Three Foreign Policy Reasons to Fire Barack Obama

G. Philip Hughes (Ambassador to Barbados and Eastern Caribbean, 1990-1993)


The concluding month of the Presidential campaign has been overshadowed, on the foreign policy front, by the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, with the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other U.S. personnel there.  Evidence is being gathered and charges are flying over whether President Obama and his team knowingly mischaracterized this attack for political purposes — to whitewash their record on combating terrorism — and whether Republican Presidential candidate, Governor Mitt Romney, is ‘playing politics’ with this national security issue.

Serious as the Benghazi attack is — the first time an American Ambassador has been killed under these circumstances since 1979, when Ambassador Adolph ‘Spike’ Dubbs was murdered in Kabul, Afghanistan during Jimmy Carter’s Presidency — there are ample other, more weighty, foreign policy reasons to elect Mitt Romney and fire Barack Obama.  Here is my list.

Foreign Policy Reasons to Fire Barack Obama

1.    ‘Global Zero.’  Obama has wedded himself to the Quixotic project of ‘stuffing toothpaste back in the tube’ known as ‘Global Zero’ — a pledge/promise to eliminate all nuclear weapons from the earth, an undertaking that Obama Administration documents describe as the President’s foremost foreign policy goal.  It may have won him a Nobel Peace Prize — well, giving a speech announcing it, anyway — but this ‘initiative’ is a dangerous fantasy.  The technology to make these weapons cannot be un-learned — and it is now too widely diffused to be bottled up and eliminated.  Likewise, the technological and industrial capabilities to create nuclear weapons.  Nuclear deterrence has successfully prevented large-scale, direct confrontations and an outbreak of war among the world’s most powerful nations for over six decades.  Obama’s dreamy vision would have us return to the days of non-nuclear deterrence that prevailed globally before the end of World War II — and we have a vivid historical record of just how successful non-nuclear deterrence was in preventing global bloodletting!  Worse, Obama’s scheme would return us to a world dependent on non-nuclear deterrence and alliances to prevent warfare — but under conditions of unprecedented instability, since the first nation to re-acquire nuclear weapons in a nuclear–free world would enjoy a potentially decisive military advantage.  Seductive though this idea may have been, thanks to the ‘Gang of Four’ (Kissinger, Schultz, Perry & Nunn) articles that appeared in the Wall Street Journal over the last half-dozen years, this idea represents national security malpractice of the first order.  For Obama, it is the triumph of ideology and politics over the national security interests of the U.S. and its allies.

2.    ‘Russia Re-set & the Open Mike.’  Obama set out to ‘hit the re-set button’ on relations with Russia.  He promptly scrapped the George W. Bush Administration’s plans to deploy a ‘third site’ for the Ground-based Mid-course (missile) Defense (GMD) system in Poland and the Czech Republic out of deference to Russia’s (merit-less) objections to the supposed threat this system posed to Russia’s nuclear deterrent.  (In its place, Obama has offered U.S. European allies a so-called ‘Phased Adaptive Approach’ to deploying a missile defense in Europe.  Typically, this system is constrained to be less capable than GMD against long-range threats to the U.S. homeland, reflecting Obama’s/Democrats’ ideological the Cold War ‘theology’ of maintaining mutual — specifically U.S. — vulnerability to strategic attack as a condition of deterrence stability.)  In the process, Obama left ‘hanging out in the breeze’ the governments of two NATO allies — Poland and the Czech Republic — in ways not seen since Jimmy Carter cancelled the ‘neutron bomb’ after luring U.S. European allies (specifically, Helmut Schmidt’s Germany) out on a limb to support it.  Obama negotiated a New START nuclear arms reduction  agreement with Russia, replacing the expiring Moscow Arms Reduction Treaty. Reverting to patterns and rituals of Cold War arms control, New START ‘deals Russia a hand’ in the domestic politics of U.S. national security policy in ways that the expired Moscow Arms Reduction Treaty was conceived to eliminate.  And Obama’s signaled, in the ‘open mike’ episode earlier this year, that he’ll have more flexibility to bargain/give away U.S. missile defense and nuclear programs ‘after the election.’  And what did he get in return for his ‘re-set’?  Russian agreement to sanctions against Iran over their nuclear program — watered-down, of course, to accommodate Russia’s particular interests.  Otherwise, Putin’s Russia remains rhetorically hostile and minimally cooperative — but Obama has bent over backwards to accommodate them.

3.    ‘Iran’s ‘Green Revolution.’  When, in 2009-2010, Iran erupted in popular protests after manifestly rigged and fraudulent Iranian elections, Obama did nothing rhetorical or material to support or encourage these democracy protests.  Perhaps mindful of the experience of the Soviet’s crushing Hungarian uprising decades earlier and wanting to avoid U.S. responsibility for a failed and bloodily suppressed uprising here, Obama’s inaction was a betrayal of the United States’ principled commitment to supporting those struggling for democracy and freedom and against tyranny around the world, and may well have been a major missed opportunity to strategically weaken Iran’s implacably hostile theocratic regime.

Foreign Policy/National Security Reasons to Elect Mitt Romney

1.    ‘Friends vs. Enemies.’ Thirty-two years ago, in the Carter-Reagan election campaign, the United States found itself in a situation strikingly similar to today: a hostile world with violent extremists attacking U.S. interests, personnel and installations around the world, and an Administration that, for reasons of ideology, style and politics, had trouble discerning between friends and enemies.  Friendly governments were treated harshly — criticized, sanctioned over policies and practices we deplored, or ignored — and enemies were catered to and accommodated, all in the belief that this would minimize conflict and elevate U.S. moral standing in the world.  This (idiotic) approach gave rise to such books as Jeanne Kirkpatrick’s Dictatorships and Double Standards.  Then, as now, the result was exactly the opposite.  Mitt Romney is not afflicted with post-modern moral confusion.  He is not prone to academically over-thought, counter-intuitive theories of how a great power should conduct itself, and he is not mired down in and over-burdened with guilt about the United States’ supposed offenses against other nations and peoples.  In short, he knows the difference between enemies and friends.  There’s little chance he’ll confuse the way each should be dealt with.

2.    ‘Trade.’  President Obama proclaimed, in his second State of the Union Address, a goal of doubling American exports in five years — as one strand of his efforts to promote economic recovery.  But — largely out of deference to his trades union supporters, he undertook no new trade agreement negotiations and allowed the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement to languish, without submitting it to Congress, for nearly three years (adding to probably election-related delays at the end of the George W. Bush Administration).  In fact, until his Administration announced its interest in the Trans Pacific Partnership — an initiative of some Pacific rim countries offering the potential of economic alternatives to succumbing to the Chinese behemoth — Obama offered ‘nothing new’ on the U.S. trade agenda for practically his entire term.  This is ironic and a shocking abdication of leadership on the part of the nation that has been in the forefront of global initiatives to liberalize and open trade for more than half a century.  Mitt Romney is not afraid of trade. His attitude toward it, as a priority, will not be dictated by labor unions.  He grasps its importance to future U.S. economic growth,  he will restore the U.S. to a position of global trade leadership and, with it, economic competitiveness.

3.    ‘Navy.’  Even as U.S. forces conduct their ‘long recessional’ from Iraq and Afghanistan under what looks surprisingly like President Obama’s ‘give up and go home’ strategy, the U.S. military is badly in need of some management attention.  Entire military services — notably, the Navy and the Air Force — have been operating for years now without a clear vision of their role and mission in a post-Cold War world of expeditionary force deployments.  In particular, the Navy is headed for the smallest fleet size in a century and with a very unclear sense of its mission and its future.  Its shipbuilding program is in disarray — and at constant risk of being used as a ‘bill-payer’ for some more immediate, ‘smaller-ticket’ procurement need elsewhere in DoD.  Given the role that former Navy Secretary John Lehman has played in the Romney campaign, it is, I believe, a sure bet that the U.S. Navy would be in for some serious clarification of its purposes and roles and some major — and strategically thought-through — re-building under a Romney Administration.  If so, it would be coming just in time.

These are by no means all the reasons why I believe President Obama’s Administration deserves to be fired for national security malpractice — and why Mitt Romney and his team deserve a shot at correcting the mistakes and missed opportunities of the last four years.  But, as they say in the UK: ‘that ought to be enough to be getting on with.’