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Election 2012! On Violence’s Thoughts on Romney

(To read all of our election coverage, click here.)

Arguing for something is hard. You have to build a case. Collect evidence. Then you have to sell it, framing the policy or idea as best you can.

Criticism is much easier. All you have to do is point out flaws, and everything has a flaw.

Take politics, for instance. Americans love to complain about our political system, pointing to out-of-control corporate spending, a gridlocked Capitol Hill, or a media that doesn’t hold politicians accountable, shouting, “Our government doesn’t work!” They rarely point out solutions or offer alternatives, because pointing out solutions is tough work. Anyone can complain; very few people can propose relevant, new solutions.

On V hates that. Don’t just criticize...offer an alternative.

Which brings us to Mitt Romney. The Romney campaign offers plenty of criticisms, while staying vague on the details. (The biggest example so far? The math behind his plan to lower income tax rates.) I understand why politicians, especially one challenging an incumbent, avoid discussing specifics. Why offer something your opponent can criticize? It just leaves you open to attack. Saying nothing risks nothing.

Which makes writing about Romney’s positions on foreign policy almost impossible. As The Telegraph summarized, “What would a Romney-Ryan administration actually do differently from President Obama when it comes to foreign affairs? Beyond the sabre rattling, specifics are scarce.” The last debate only furthered that sentiment. That said, based on what Romney has said in speeches and written on his website, we’re going to dive into Mitt Romney’s policies on foreign affairs, defense spending and veteran’s affairs. We’ll try to answer the question, “Do we agree or disagree with Romney’s policy positions?”

Mitt Romney’s Worldview - On V Disagrees

As Michael decried a few weeks ago, it seems like every president from now to eternity will have a foreign policy “doctrine” attached to their name. We can sum up Mitt Romney’s doctrine in two words:

No. Apologies.

He wrote an entire memoir with that title, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. Romney incorrectly blames President Obama for “apologizing for America.” Politifact quotes Romney saying (inaccurately), “I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour."

This emphasis on apologies makes us conclude that Romney might be a financial sheep in neo-conservative wolf clothing. He might simply be pandering to his Republican base, but Romney still talks a great neo-conservative game with neo-con thoughts like:    

1. Never apologize for America.

2. America has plenty of enemies in the world. Russia is our greatest geo-political foe; Iran is the world’s greatest threat; China is our rival. Neo-conservatives see a dangerous world they must constantly fight. Romney embraces that, even though none of it is true.

3. The President of the U.S. controls the thoughts and actions of foreign leaders and people.

4. The only thing that matters in foreign policy is strength through military spending. (More on this later.)

As a result, former Bush administration foreign policy folks, especially ones with neo-conservative bents, crowd Mitt Romney’s team. Frankly, we don’t need that foreign policy worldview in the White House again.

Iran - On V Disagrees

Like most Republican candidates in this election cycle, Mitt Romney hasn’t spelled out a different policy than President Obama regarding Iran. He just says--vaguely reminiscent of Herman Cain on Obama’s handling of Libya--that he would do the same things, but better. On Meet the Press, outside of panning Obama’s “policy of engagement”, Romney would encourage sanctions (“which, by the way, the president's finally getting closer to,” Romney admits.) and military action, though he remained vague on when or how he would use it.

When it comes to novel solutions, candidate Romney doesn’t offer any. Like Obama, he hasn’t vigorously ruled out a war with Iran. Obviously, we disagree.

Defense Spending - On V Disagrees

On the issue of defense spending, Mitt Romney has been very specific on what he’d do: increase it. While On Violence believes the military spends money like a drunken soldier on mid-tour leave, a would-be President Romney sees no harm in exploding the size of the Pentagon’s budget. Instead of just opposing defense cuts under coming sequestration (which he incorrectly blames on Obama), Romney wants to ramp up the budget to levels that, in comparative terms, would be the greatest increase since World War II. (For more, check out this excellent guest post at “The Best Defense” by Travis Sharp.)

Defense spending has increased over 50% since 9/11, way outpacing inflation. Even Romney admits, “The Department’s bureaucracy is bloated to the point of dysfunction and is ripe for being pared.” As we too wrote on "The Best Defense" last week, Romney is taking the wrong approach with the Pentagon.

Veterans Affairs - On V Disagrees

Romney cannot cut the deficit while increasing military spending...unless he cuts spending on our veterans. Right now, according to Mitt Romney’s budget outlines, defense spending will skyrocket with no word on whether he will increase spending at the Veteran Affairs department. As this Daily Beast article worries, a Romney presidency could mean drastically reduced veterans services...just like the Bush administration.

Afghanistan - On V Agrees

Mitt Romney has the exact same plan as President Obama: talk with commanders on the ground, get their advice, and then make a decision. In the recent debate, he hinted he will stick with the current timeline, then added some caveats. On Violence would much rather hear either candidate promise to remove all troops from Afghanistan as quickly as possible, but this policy will work until then.

twenty comments

Writing this post was hard. We wrote it pre-debate, before Mitt Romney pivoted to a more peaceful anti-war position in many areas.

If there are any mistakes in his stated positions, the inconsistency is his, not ours.

Romney’s not getting my vote, chicken hawk who protested in favor of the Vietnam war and sat it out in France as a misonary. Jeez, just the idea that you can get my Frog cousins to give up wine, Gauloises and mistresses for anything proves you lack any common sense from the get-go. The Romster’s a trust fund ferret born with a silver spoon in his mouth, another non-started for me. Bane Capital=American jobs sent abroad-FAIL. The whole Israel first chearleading & let’s murder Iranians for Bibi Netanyahu isn’t very endearing, either.

As I rant about our failed federal government, its current President refused to discuss the above proposals with me last December.

There are systemic problems with the corruption of our federal government brought on by 100 years of Empire building and the reduction of the Citizen to become now ‘a subject’.

The problems of today come from this very Empire building program and are sustained by perpetuating the two-party dictatorship. The advocates of this system operate openly, but un-Constitutionally. Collusion within the federal government insures its un-Natural existence.

The People remain timid and cowed, subservient and shameful.

To carry the post one step further:

Would Mr. Romney refuse to dispatch help and perhaps order people not to help, if a diplomatic post in a foreign country was under attack by perhaps two reinforced infantry platoons? We don’t know.

We do know what Mr. Obama did. In my opinion, the advantage accrues to Mr. Romney.

C.‘s, the comments keep getting stranger and stranger.

Carl, Obama sent Americans into Pakistan illegally to kill UBL, and continues to personally approve drone strikes on HVTs. With those facts in mind, do you really think he has shown himself hesitant or timid?

@ Duck – Yeah, I’m not really sure what to say or do about it.


What he did in Benghazi was order people who wanted to go not to, repeatedly until they blew him off and went anyway. He also would not allow others to go and try. That is what he did. With that in mind, I think him hesitant and timid.

Can you substantiate those claims? That is a far more certain description of the President’s actions than I have yet encountered. Who disclosed what assests where available? Who reported that the President was involved in a real-time decision making process?

Can I, little old me, substantiate those? No. I can point you to Bing West’s piece on NRO. And I can tell you to go to Fox News and read the reports, the many reports. There were fighters and Hercs of various permutations in Sicily. The reports I read also say there were various commando forces at the same base. There were two drones circling above and providing feed during the bulk of the battle, which lasted 6-7 hours. Some of the CIA guys at the annex requested thrice to go to the consulate to help, were told to stand down and then went anyway. The CIA later issued a statement saying it was absolutely false that ‘anybody at the CIA’ (paraphrase) told those guys to stand down. As far as disclosures of assets goes, just look at what is based normally in the region and what moved in recently.

Nobody has to report if Mr. Obama was involved in the decision (pleas don’t say “decision making process”, it makes my teeth hurt). When a consulate reports it is being attacked by infantry, the President is in on the deciding. He had better be.

There is lots of stuff out there. Maybe not at the Timeseses or ABC but it is all out there. You will have to decide for yourself what you buy and what you don’t. As for me, Bing West carries a lot of weight.

In general, I like to wait a few months for the larger, longer reports to come out. With the Osama raid, for example, a lot of the early information was dead wrong. We’ve written about this before, somewhere. It’s why we avoid breaking news stories on the blog.

Eric C:

That is a wise course. It has been going two months since the Amb was murdered and a bunch of things are just coming out.

@ Eric H – We just googled searched your quotes, and found that they were posted on another forum on the internet. We just can’t have that.

In the future, just post a link.

When I ask for substantiation, I do not assume Carl, some guy on the internet, will be able to provide first hand reporting. Links to sources would have been more than sufficient.

I’ll read West’s piece, but I absolutely do not trust Fox’s reporting on the issue. Until we have something more than rumors, I find it beyond reason that the President would leave Americans to die without cause (and there are good reasons for telling CIA operatives not to go into the fight, especially if their duty is to guard data/equipment, just like the Marine detachment).

I used decision making process with cause, because that is what it is, a chain of command and a series of individual steps to come to a choice of action. I doubt that the consulate got attacked and some nameless first level DS employee got on their phone and said, “Get me the President!” and was immediately connected to the White House.


Like I said, you decide for yourself what you will buy and what you won’t. I figure you know how google something so links from me you mostly won’t get. Look it up.

Nah, the simple word ‘decision’ or saying ‘who made the decision and how’ is much better than decision making process. Saying ‘decision making process’ is putting on airs, besides, it makes my teeth hurt.


Check out the op ed by David Ignatious from yesterday. He reports good reason for holding the CIA guys up briefly. If true, bad one on me.

You can find that op-ed (here)

I think there are a lot of answered questions, especially with the fog of war. We’re yet to find out who knew what, when.

Right, which is why I find the Obama blaming rather pointless, at this point.


Not pointless at all. This blog post concerns the Cs making a judgment with regard to the upcoming election. That judgment in this case concerns foreign policy and how each candidate might or has handled things. The deaths in Benghazi are therefore worth discussing. It would be best if we could wait for full information to be available, but that will not happen, there isn’t time. So we have to go with the information available. Sometimes you just have to go with what you got.

Bing West is very exercised about this. Very. He had an about 7 minute interview with Greta Van Susteren last Friday I think. (I can’t find it right now. But I will later so you Cs don’t have to look it up) He says Mr. Obama said he gave immediate orders that all help be given as soon as he heard about the attack. Mr. West says if that was true, there would be in essence a paper trail-the President gives an order, the military follows it and records are kept. Mr. West says straight that he doesn’t believe there was an order because there is no paper trail. Bing West is sort of a mil-god walking so if he says this, I take notice. He says further, all they have to do to clear this up, in seconds, is show the order.

Here is a link to a story on Fox News about this. It’s Fox News so you may not want to watch, but I’m pretty sure that’s Bing West.


Note: Bad one on me about the stand down orders to the CIA guys only, if true. As for the rest, I’ll continue to follow Mr. West’s lead.


I’ve read Ignatius’ piece and West’s columns at NRO, and I remain skeptical of the controversy. The problem for those wanting to excoriate the President, as I see it, is that the criticism boils down to a vision of Obama sitting in the situation room, watching Americans under attack, and doing nothing, for no reason. Which defies his entire track record, and ignores the far more likely explanation that confusion reigned at all levels, and assembling a reaction force and planning an intrusion into foreign airspace proved too great a challenge for the teams in place. And there was a plan to send support (the group from Tripoli and the February 17th Brigade), and quite possibly more was not done because that was the plan, and it simply was not realized fast enough. Now, Obama is ultimately responsible either way, but we should recognize that if the problem was confusion, inter-agency mis-communication, or Libyan response time, those could have defeated any administration.

I can understand why the Administration would favor opacity, admitting to the public that friction can incapacitate even the seemingly omnipotent (or at least we talk about it that way – consider the myth that the President can “fix” the economy, or that certain President’s can “shape” other nations actions or even attitudes based on sheer Leader-ness) POTUS. It is unfortunately, because I think we foolishly insist on zero-defect for our President and especially during an election season, no politician will admit even a fault that could have afflicted anyone.

You judge as you see. For me, planning an intrusion into foreign airspace of a country that has no air defense system at all as far as I know and one in which one of our drones was already flying in was just a matter of figuring the course and launching. And as Mr. West said, jets could have been there very quickly to do a show of force if nothing else and if AC-130s were in Sicily they could have launched and been there before the whole thing ended. Mr. West says release the orders. That would clear up everything. The CIA moved pretty quick as did State in Tripoli. So far as is known now, the military didn’t do much, if anything.

I like your point about insisting upon zero defects. That is very bad fault we have. But you do the right thing anyway.

Drone strikes are evidence of nothing. They allow leaders to pretend to have made hard decisions without really have done so and tend to encourage thoughtless killing, in my opinion anyway.