MILLER: Foreign Policy Still a Question Mark
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 17:09
The events of this past week in Egypt and Libya have drawn a spotlight on a theme that has been noticeably missing in the 2012 presidential campaigns: foreign policy.
Mitt Romney responded to the death of American diplomats with a denunciation of President Obama’s foreign policy, which he says has failed to protect the interests and people of the United States. Criticized for not focusing on mourning the loss of American life — as Obama did from the White House press room — Romney softened his rhetoric and lamented the deaths.
But both candidates have failed to do what these tragic events have demanded of them in the arena of this presidential election: define their foreign policy platforms.
Obama entered office with the nation by and large fatigued by military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Promising to disentangle the United States from foreign quagmires, he ended the war in Iraq and scaled down troops in Afghanistan. Yet even having fulfilled these 2008 campaign promises, the administration’s foreign policy of minimal military intervention and alliance-building diplomacy has been unevenly applied and has yielded minimal results.
When negotiations with Iranian leaders to cease the country’s nuclear program failed, the Obama administration shifted its tactics to focus on imposing tough economic sanctions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s warnings that Israel will attack Iran if the nuclear program continues to progress indicate that the intensity of the nuclear situation in the Middle East has only heightened. Economic sanctions, unfortunately, have failed to control the development of nuclear weapons in the region.
Furthermore, there has not been any discernable uniformity in Obama’s decisions on U.S. intervention abroad. While he backed the Egyptian revolutionaries who overthrew Hosni Mubarak and aided the European effort to topple Moammar Gadhafi of Libya, Obama declined to give military aid to rebels in Syria.
Unrest in the Middle East continues to plague the United States. Obama owes American voters a substantive plan for how he would remedy that if given a second term.
Even in light of Obama’s limited foreign policy success, Romney is not currently offering an appealing — or any — alternative.
Romney has little foreign policy experience, a shortcoming that was evidenced during his Middle East tour this summer, during which he was criticized for making comments about Palestinians that were perceived as racist. Furthermore, his immediate comments following the American deaths this past week have been identified as another indication of his diplomatic ineptitude.
Romney has said that he would increase defense spending by somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 trillion. That’s not chump change, especially given the current economic climate, and the Republican candidate is obligated to lay out what policy would determine the use of that money.
In fairness, Romney has not been completely silent on foreign policy. The campaign has said that the candidate would provide military aid to Syrian rebels, and, perhaps more significantly, Romney has promised that he would threaten Iran with a military attack to pressure the country into discontinuing its nuclear program — a clear departure from the Obama tactic of negotiation.
All indicators suggest that Romney would adopt an aggressive foreign policy stance, favoring threat and force over alliance-building and nonmilitary pressure. However, the pervasive turmoil in the Middle East demands an overarching plan for the region, particularly with regards to neutralizing its threat to the United States. Scattered, vague comments on affairs abroad are not going to cut it; Romney needs to develop and articulate his foreign policy.
We’ve had enough with Obama’s charade of asking for just four more years to finish what he started. Given the mixed results of his international actions thus far, Obama needs to lay out a concrete plan for how he will make his foreign policy more successful in the future. Likewise, we’ve had enough of Romney's deflecting attention away from his nonexistent foreign policy by making a straw man of Obama’s failures.
It’s about time we hear some substance from the candidates vying to be our commander-in-chief.
Hannah Miller is a junior in the College.