Monday, October 10, 2011

Romney's Foreign Policy Statements Aren't About Foreign Policy

. Monday, October 10, 2011

I don't disagree with any of Drezner's critiques of Romney's white paper, nor with his overall grade. But I think that it's mostly irrelevant. Here's what Drezner says:

Similarly, for someone who says that, the Obama administration is "undermining one’s allies (p. 3)" in contrast to you, who will "reassure our allies (p. 13)", you don't actually talk about America's treaty allies much at all. True, you do talk about expanding America's allies to include India and Indonesia. Mexico gets some face time. Israel gets a lot of face time. On the other hand, NATO is not mentioned once in this entire document. Neither is the European Union. Japan and South Korea get perfunctory treamtment at best. Turkey is a major treaty ally but you treat it like a pariah state. For someone who's claiming that the U.S. will reassure its major allies, you didn't talk about them much at all. This is a really important problem, because Japan and Europe have been crucial allies in a lot of major American initiatives -- and they're getting weaker. Even in discussing new possible allies, I'm kind of gobsmacked that Brazil is never discussed. 
Another big problem is that your approach to China is so shot full of contradictions that I don't know where to begin. ... 
If the section on China is contradictory, then your discussion of Pakistan is worse. ... 
One final point, should you choose to revise this draft strategy -- you need to prioritize the threats you discuss in the paper. You list a bunch of them -- rising authoritarian states, transnational violence, failing states, and rogue states. If you have to prioritize, which threats merit greater attention? This should actually be pretty easy, since you absurdly overhype the threats posed by some of these countries (Venezuela, Cuba and Russia in particular).
But I suspect that these inconsistencies are exactly the message that Romney intended to convey. After all, he's not trying to convince the FP wonkosphere that he's got a consistent grand strategy that would get an exceptional grade in a graduate class. He's trying to convince GOP voters to nominate him for the presidency. And what do those voters want to hear? It seems likely that they want hyped-up threats from Cold War baddies, a blank check for Israel, and mixed feelings on China. I doubt they care much about Brazil, and they take Japan and Europe for granted. And, as Drezner noted previously, they (presumably) want someone who has thought about foreign policy for more than 15 seconds and has some coherent vision for how it should be conducted. Unlike Perry. Romney's tossing them the red meat that he hopes will convince primary voters that he's more serious and knowledgable about foreign policy than his competitors.

In other words, the audience matters. Romney's audience is the contemporary GOP, which is endlessly hawkish but only in some directions. He's signaling to them as hard as he can that he's hawkish in those directions too, but no others. Everything in the document makes sense when viewed in that light, even if it doesn't make sense as actual policy platform.

I'm not trying to knock Drezner at all; his job is to take these kinds of policy statements at face value and evaluate them. He is obviously aware of Romney's motivations. But it's worth remembering the context.


Romney's Foreign Policy Statements Aren't About Foreign Policy
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