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Why Should We Care What Mitt Romney Has to Say About Foreign Policy?

Mitt Romney thinks America needs to beef up its military and wrote an op-ed to that effect in the <i>Washington Post</i>. But why should we care what some warmongering failed politician has to say about anything?

Mitt Romney at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference. Photo via Flickr user Gage Skidmore

A man who tried and failed to be president—twice—and last held political office in 2007, when he was finishing up his one and only term as governor of a tiny little state called Massachusetts has opinions about things. Do we care about those opinions? No, we don't. We don't care at all.

Alas, none of us own a newspaper called the Washington Post. This week, what is now essentially the Amazon.com newsletter run by a former aide to Ronald Reagan published an op-ed from the two-time loser with a title borrowed from a dull fifth grader's book report, "The World Needs a Mighty US Military,” which is predicated on the idea that Barack Hussein Obama is unilaterally disarming America by cutting military spending to about what it was when George W. Bush left office.

This premise is, of course, what the French would call “bullshit." The current President of the United States has spent more on the military in a single year than any of his predecessors, nearly tripled the number of US troops in Afghanistan soon after taking office, and ordered drone strikes in from Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan. The guy has a “kill list,” to which he adds names based on a PowerPoint presentation he watches every Tuesday while sipping his Intelligentsia coffee. As Obama reportedly told his aides, he's “really good at killing people."

However, just as it doesn’t matter how many people he deports, it doesn’t matter how many people Obama kills: He will always be a Democrat and Mitt Romney is a Republican and that means Mitt Romney must pretend that Obama is surrendering to the terrorists. It’s a fictional narrative, to which the facts must be fit, but there aren’t many facts to support it, so what we are left with is some steaming hot rhetoric. Here are some selections:

It is said that the first rule of wing-walking is to not let go with one hand until the other hand has a firm grip. So, too, before we jettison our reliance on US strength, there must be something effective in its place—if such a thing is even possible.

Is the world the plane in this metaphor? If so, why is the US walking on the wings? That’s reckless and dumb and will get someone killed, just like US foreign policy. But let’s go with it: Without US strength, how would a million Vietnamese have been slaughtered? How would 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five have died from an embargo that denied them access to medicine and filtered water? Who would have armed Indonesia's military dictator, enabling him and his allies to wipe out hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians?

There are those who claim that a multipolar world is preferable to one led by a strong United States. Were these other poles nations such as Australia, Canada, France and Britain, I might concur.

If other white people ran the world, Romney might be down with it. Alas:

. . . with emerging poles being China, Russia and Iran, the world would not see peace; it would see bullying, invasion and regional wars. And ultimately, one would seek to conquer the others, unleashing world war.

It's worth noting that, historically, China isn’t the most militaristic power in Asia: That honor would have to go to Japan, a close US ally that, with the encouragement of the Obama administration, is rapidly remilitarizing. Russia is run by an asshole, but for all Vladimir Putin's bluster, it's not so powerful it can freely annex Eastern Ukraine. And the last time Iran was at war it was because the US encouraged its then ally, Saddam Hussein, to invade it. A world war between all three of them? Maybe in Call of Duty. Romney apocalyptic vision is even wider than that, however:

Some argue that the United States should simply withdraw its military strength from the world—get out of the Middle East, accept nuclear weapons in Iran and elsewhere, let China and Russia have their way with their neighbors and watch from the sidelines as jihadists storm on two or three continents.

There were no jihadists in Iraq until the US invaded the country in 2003, after which it became a training ground for the very people who would go on to form the Islamic State. After a decade of military action, the US hasn’t been able to defeat Islamic militants in Afghanistan, which is to say: US military action creates the very threat it is incapable of defeating.

Also, it should be noted, people—stupid people and simple liars— have been claiming for years that Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, though Iran’s leaders say such weapons violate the fundamental tenets of Islam. In early 1992, as noted by Iran analyst Nima Shirazi, House Republicans issued a report that claimed with “98 percent certainty that Iran already had all [or virtually all] of the components required for two to three operational nuclear weapons.” Those weapons were supposed to be assembled by April of that year.

No, that didn’t happen.

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which inspects all of Iran’s nuclear facilities—something Israel, the only nuclear power in the Middle East, refuses to allow—“continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material” in the Islamic Republic. If Iran were building nuclear weapons, it presumably wouldn’t be able to hide all the highly enriched uranium those weapons require from IAEA inspectors. But these are facts, and this is an op-ed by Mitt Romney.

The history of the 20th century teaches that power-hungry tyrants ultimately feast on the appeasers—to use former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour’s phrase, we would be paying the cannibals to eat us last.

History shows that most power-hungry tyrants were given arms by alleged appeasers in the West. The US government famously gave Saddam Hussein everything from anthrax to the bubonic plague. The US was likewise giving weapons to Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi up until the West decided he was too difficult to deal with to bother keeping around. Time and time again, the US government creates monsters—or at the very least heavily arms them—then cites their monstrous behavior to justify further military interventions.

Haley Barbour, by the way, is a man who has publicly praised the White Citizens’ Council, which is, yup, what it sounds like: a white supremacist group. The curious thing here, though, is that his quote was actually referring to dealings with Congress, not foreign governments; it’s Mitt Romney who is using the phrase in a way apparently meant to conjure up images of our enemies as spear-chucking savages.

And in the meantime, our economy would be devastated by the disruption of trade routes, the turmoil in global markets and the tumult of conflict across the world.

Military spending is a net drain on the economy because it’s spending on things that serve no damn purpose. Instead of missiles and tanks, factories that produce weapons of war could be repurposed to improve the world we live in. Money spent on bombs could be spent on bullet trains—on the building of infrastructure, not the destruction of it. With just $30 billion a year, or about the cost of 100 F-35 fighter jets that don’t even work, the US could make a serious dent in global hunger, which in addition to being a really good thing would also be a hell of a propaganda victory that would genuinely make us all safer. Or we could take Romney's advice and build more aircraft carriers that will never see combat.

The arguments for shrinking our military fall aside to reveal the real reason for the cuts: Politicians, and many of the people who elect them, want to keep up spending here at home. Entitlements and programs are putting pressure on the federal budget: We either cut defense, or we cut spending on ourselves.

"Every gun that is made," said former president Dwight D. Eisenhower, "every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed."

Eisenhower said that after overseeing the creation of what he called the "military-industrial complex," but at least he felt some shame about it.

Some insist that our military is already so much stronger than that of any other nation that we can safely cut it back, again and again. Their evidence: the relative size of our defense budget.

That evidence is pretty good, guy: No country in the world spends anywhere near as much money on its military as the United States. With a Pentagon budget of over $600 billion, the US government accounts for at least 38 percent of global military spending; add in members of NATO, and the US and its closest allies comfortably spend more than the rest of the world does combined. The next biggest spender is China, which devotes a mere $112 billion to its armed forces.

More relevant is the fact that Russia’s nuclear arsenal is significantly greater than our own and that, within six years, China will have more ships in its navy than we do.

Here’s a fun fact: Once you possess enough nuclear weapons to destroy all life as we know it, there’s really no point in possessing more of them. In fact, there’s no real point at all to possessing weapons capable of destroying all life unless one plans on using them, which no one but the war criminal Harry Truman has had the nerve to do.

Meanwhile, China just built its second aircraft carrier. The United States has 19, soon to be 23. China may someday have more boats, but those boats are nowhere near as deadly capable as those America has deployed just off China's coast.

The most ludicrous excuse for shrinking our military derives from the president’s thinking: “Things are much less dangerous now than they were 20 years ago, 25 years ago or 30 years ago.” The “safer world” trial balloon has been punctured by recent events in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Nigeria, Somalia, Syria and Iraq. “Failures of imagination” led to tragedy 13 years ago; today, no imagination is required to picture what would descend on the United States if we let down our guard.

The fun thing about this list of “recent events” undermining the idea that we live in a safer world is that the US government has had a direct role in creating most of these dangerous situations.

Afghanistan: The US has been at war there for over a decade.

Libya: The US armed the former dictator and then armed the jihadists who helped overthrow him. Now Libya is undeniably in worse shape than ever, with warring militias breaking the nation up into competing fiefdoms.

Egypt: Next to Israel, no country receives as much military aid from the US government, which provided the weapons and tear gas used against protesters.

Gaza: Hundreds of civilians were just murdered there by a colonial-settler client state that is the top recipient of US military aid.

Nigeria: The Nigerian military, backed and funded by the US, has committed war crimes on a scale far greater than Boko Haram. And despite deploying US troops there, we still haven’t brought back those girls.

Somalia: The last time Somalia enjoyed any semblance of stability was when a relatively moderate group, the Islamic Courts, took over Mogadishu. They were promptly bombed out of existence by the US and its ally Ethiopia, unleashing a wave of terrorism from which the country has yet to recover.

Syria: Bashar Assad, Syria's dictator, used to torture people on behalf of George W. Bush, but after it looked like he was about to lose power, the US government—and close allies like Saudi Arabia—joined the effort to overthrow him and flooded Syria with weapons that have since gone to jihadists who received their training on the battlefields of Libya and Iraq; these jihadists have in turn helped kill off more moderate elements of the Syrian opposition, strengthening Assad's grip on power. Good work, everyone.

Iraq: Oh, shut up, Mitt. They may not have your hair, but there are plenty of personality-free Republicans out there willing to spout this vapid garbage, like the aide who presumably wrote this piece for you. Please, sir, go away and fade into obscurity already.

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