Unless something inconceivably drastic has occurred since the last presidential debate on foreign policy—which again did not include one third party candidate—by now either Barack Obama has been elected to a second term or Mitt Romney has been elected the 45th President of the United States. What struck me the most in the last debate was the lack of any substantial differences between the Democratic and Republican candidates when it comes to American foreign policy. In fact, Mitt Romney essentially agreed with the president on every issue. When it comes down to it, just as the American people were given no choice in regards to the welfare state, the PATRIOT Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, the ability of the Feds to detain citizens indefinitely without trial, the use of torture, the war on drugs, and the corrupt corporate welfare entity known as the Federal Reserve, the American people were given no choice on how they want their country to display herself abroad.
Both candidates agreed on American exceptionalism. Obama said, “America remains the one indispensable nation.” Despite this and the president’s continuation of his predecessor’s foreign policy, Romney criticized the president again for being a weak leader and apologizing for America. “America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators,” the former governor said. That is simply a rewriting of history, because America has been overthrowing democratically elected leaders (Iran 1951) and propping up dictators (Chiang Kai-shek, Ngo Dinh Diem, Hosni Mubarak, Abdul-’Aziz bin’ Fahd—still in power—just to name a few) for decades.
Both candidates agreed on how to deal with Iran, that backward theocracy that threatens world peace, should they continue their uranium enrichment program. Obama has enacted the worst sanctions in the history of sanctions on Iran, suffocating the populace in order to convince the government to discontinue its nuclear program. Mitt Romney would do the same, but harsher and sooner. The two rivals agreed that a red line should be drawn and only superficially disagree on where that line should be. At an earlier point in history, blocking trade in and out of a country and interfering with its internal operations would be considered an act of war. And war is once again what our Washington know-betters are leading us toward.
Both candidates agreed on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. These advanced tools of warfare have little oversight and even less transparency, so it is nearly impossible to track the secret military operations undergone, particularly in Pakistan and Yemen, and impossible to account for the ratio of civilians killed by drones to terrorists killed. What’s scary about drones is the possibility of their use at home (some claim there are drones patrolling our airways, “protecting” us, right now). Domestic drone use would be a tremendous infringement upon civil rights, an invasion of privacy in the name of keeping us safe. But this would merely be another step in a long line of civil rights abuses.
When it came to Libya, an issue Romney had called Obama out on in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Romney backed away. That the administration misled the public in regards to the causes of the attack and refused to send additional security when the consulate felt it was in danger should have been a point of emphasis for the Republican candidate. Instead, the issue was circumnavigated and the American public missed out on an opportunity to criticize our foreign policy woes.
From an outside, nonpartisan perspective, there really is not that much difference between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Though they have different visions for the country, different motivations, and starkly different rhetoric, the fact is that no matter who has been elected, the status quo will continue. There will continue to be an American military presence in some 130 countries. We will continue to outspend the next 15-20 biggest-spending nations on military spending. (Note: defense spending ≠ military spending—unlawful, preemptive wars do not defend this nation.) There will continue to be no real debate on America’s role around the world. We should be questioning whether her role is to attract people to her shores and inspire change throughout the world by example or whether it is to police the world and shove her ways down the throats of other nations. The French Revolution, the adoption of a free-ish market in China, and the Arab Spring (which wouldn’t have been possible were it not for American inventions like the internet, cell phones, and social media), all inspired by America’s prosperity, stability, and freedom, have done wonders to advance world prosperity and peace. Regime changes, offensive wars, and/or secret interventions in Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Liberia, Somalia, Indonesia and countless other nations make the world and America a far less safe place.
Some call this strategy isolationism. Well, if that is true, then the founders were isolationists. That, however, is not the case. Just as America did in the days of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, she can still defend and spread the worthy causes of self-governance, democracy, and human liberty through diplomacy and trade.