Well, Mitt Romneyâ€™s foreign policy preferences became a lot more clear during Monday nightâ€™s debate, didnâ€™t they? He wants to do exactly what President Obama is doing, but he wants to do it louder.
On Syria? Romney wants to work with our allies to provide humanitarian support to rebels in that country, but he wants to be careful we donâ€™t arm extremist militants who might someday become terrorists who turn those arms on America. And he doesnâ€™t want to send the U.S. military to intervene.
Just like President Obama.
On Afghanistan? Well, Romney thinks that the surge of American troops in that country has helped create progress there, and heâ€™s ready to bring all of those troops home in 2014.
Just like President Obama.
If Israel is attacked, heâ€™ll stand with that country and â€śget its back.â€ť Just like President Obama. Heâ€™ll use drones to kill and harass anti-American militants. Just like President Obama. He favors â€ścripplingâ€ť sanctions to undermine Iranâ€™s nuclear program. Just like President Obama.
You know who else can do foreign policy just like President Obama? President Obama.
Romney’s Monday night performance Â became strongly, comically reminiscent of this scene from This Is Spinal Tap. Mitt Romney is Nigel Tufnel, trying to convince the confused interviewer that his amps are better because, the volume markings are slightly different.
Romney’s support of Obama’s foreign policy isn’t actually that surprising. While the overlap isnâ€™t 100 percent, Americaâ€™s foreign policy has mostly been a bipartisan operationâ€”the party in charge might be somewhat more or less prone to go to war, but both Democrats and Republicans are devoted to the idea of American â€śleadershipâ€ť in the world.
And that means that the areas of disagreement are often not that serious. President Obama, for example, thinks we should have a really, really big militaryâ€”one that will, for the forseeable future, outspend the next 10 biggest militaries combined. Romney? He wants a really, really, REALLY big military. Maybe it seems like a big difference to partisan eyes, but really: China, which is emerging as Americaâ€™s biggest geopolitical rival, only has one aircraft carrier. Itâ€™s used and doesnâ€™t actually, really work. America? We have 11, plus a few more amphibious assault ships that carry helicopters. We’re ahead, by an enormous margin.
So the military spending part of the debate, really, was like trying to contest the difference between â€śridonkulousâ€ť and â€śginormous.â€ť Everybody on stage wanted the same thingâ€”an American military too big to fail.
One of the nightâ€™s sharpest and most exchanges came, in fact, when Romney peddled his thoroughly discredited charge that Obama went on an â€śapology tourâ€ť at the outset of his presidency. Turns out Obama never apologized. But he didn’t thump his chest enough, and to Republicans that’s the same thing. What do Republicans want out of our foreign policy? A little more horn-tooting, it seems.
Sure, theyâ€™d do policy on Syria and Egypt and Afghanistan and Iran and Israel in nearly identical fashionâ€”though I still think theyâ€™re a little bit more likely to go to war in Iranâ€”but they want to do that Exact Same Stuff with a bit more attitude, a lot more swagger that lets the world know: â€śWe are America, we are awesome, and we will eff you up given half a chance.â€ť Itâ€™s like the false bravado of any Will Ferrell character, ever.
A little more than a century ago, Republicans were led by a president whose philosophy was to â€śspeak softly and carry a big stick.â€ť Turns out thatâ€™s far too nuanced for todayâ€™s GOP. Now itâ€™s: â€śSPEAK LOUD. CARRY BIGGER STICK.â€ť (And yes, any phallic interpretations of that philosophy are strictly intended.)
Thing is: The rest of the world already knows America has a big stick. Republicans seem to think they can make the world a safer place by talking loudly about it. What they’re actually offering is not all that new or different from what we’ve got. They just want to make it go to 11.