Difference in Degree, but not in Kind

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney shake hands after the final presidential debate.

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney shake hands after the final presidential debate.

The final debate between America’s two presidential rivals made one thing painfully clear: US foreign policy under President Barak Obama’s second term would deviate only marginally from a first term under Mitt Romney.

Republican challenger Romney all but endorsed his incumbent rival’s competent, if uninspired, record as commander-in-chief, though we may never know if that reflected his true convictions or his decision to re-animate himself as a moderate in the campaign’s decisive final weeks. What is certain is that both candidates lack the vision and courage needed to demolish the canned reference points that have sucked the imagination out of US foreign policy over the last six decades.

[inset_left]Republican challenger Romney all but endorsed his incumbent rival’s competent, if uninspired, record as commander-in-chief[/inset_left]

The candidates’ respective world views may differ in degree, but not in kind. Though both would likely launch a pre-emptive assault on Iran—Obama, after all, has committed his government to preventing Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and the mullahs show no sign of backing down—a President Romney might give the order sooner and with relish; while Obama’s support for a viable Palestinian state may be sincere, he’d lack a second-term mandate strong enough to resist a Likudnik-controlled Congress eager to entrench Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land; throughout the campaign, both men have promiscuously bashed China, apparently unaware that Beijing is too busy with its own leadership transition to parse America’s political theater from its reality.

A fiscal abyss, Americans are told, is poised to swallow the US economy should automatic spending cuts kick in early next year if Congress cannot pass a budget. Yet neither Obama nor Romney have signaled they are prepared to dismantle Washington’s infrastructure of empire abroad in order to revive its economy at home. Neither Democratic nor Republican leaders have displayed a willingness to share the burden of global security with its allies, many of which are now among the world’s richest countries. Despite alarmist talk about how the Obama administration’s proposed defense cuts will leave America dangerously exposed—to whom or to what is never clearly spelled out—it is easer for Washington to cut funding for education and health care, particularly in urban areas, than military bases overseas.

Throughout the campaign, the visions expressed for America’s role in the world have been maddeningly small-minded. The country’s diminution as a superpower should be embraced rather than disparaged as an opportunity to consolidate its resources, reinvest in the homeland and contribute to the world as a wiser, if less militarized, nation among others. Sadly, and at ruinous cost, Washington’s foreign policy elites would rather America be feared than respected, a bipartisan myopia that has done as much as anything to hasten the country’s growing irrelevance.


Subscribe to the discussion