Despite the sharp charges and counter-charges about foreign/military and national security policy, there are no important differences on such matters between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney. The back and forth between the candidates on international issues is largely about appearance, not substance.
The Washington Post noted on Sept. 26 that the two candidates “made clear this week that they share an overriding belief — American political and economic values should triumph in the world.” Add to that uplifting phrase the implicit words “by any means necessary,” and you have the essence of Washington’s international endeavors.
There are significant differences within the GOP’s right wing factions — from neoconservatives and ultra nationalists to libertarians and traditional foreign policy pragmatic realists — that make it extremely difficult for the Republicans to articulate a comprehensive foreign/military policy. This is why Romney confines himself to criticizing Obama’s international record without elaborating on his own perspective, except to imply he would do everything better than the incumbent.
Only nuances divide the two ruling parties on the principal strategic international objectives that determine the development of policy. Washington’s main goals include:
• Retaining worldwide “leadership,” a euphemism for geopolitical hegemony.
• Maintaining the unparalleled military power required to crush any other country, using all means from drones to nuclear weapons. This is made clear in the incumbent administration’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), and the January 2012 strategic defense guidance titled, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.”
• Containing the rise of China’s power and influence, not only globally but within its own East Asian regional sphere of influence, where the U.S. still intends to reign supreme. Obama’s “pivot” to Asia is part of Washington’s encirclement of China militarily and politically through its alliances with key Asian-Pacific allies. In four years, according to the IMF, China’s economy will overtake that of the U.S. — and Washington intends to have its fleets, air bases, troops and treaties in place for the celebration.
• Exercising decisive authority over the entire resource-rich Middle East and adjacent North Africa. Only The Iranian and Syrian governments remain to be toppled. (Shia Iraq, too, if it gets too close to Iran.)
• Provoking regime change in Iran through crippling sanctions intended to wreck the country’s economy and, with Israel, threats of war. There is no proof Iran is constructing a nuclear weapon.
• Seeking regime change in Syria, Shia Iran’s (and Russia’s) principal Arab ally. Obama is giving political and material support to fractious rebel forces in the civil war who are also supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey. The U.S. interest is in controlling the replacement regime.
• Weakening and isolating Russia as it develops closer economic and political ties to China, and particularly when it expresses opposition to certain of Washington’s less savory schemes, such as continuing to expand NATO, seeking to crush Iran and Syria, and erecting anti-missile systems in Europe. In 20 years, NATO has been extended from Europe to Central Asia, adjacent to China and former Soviet republics.
• Continuing the over 50-year Cold War economic embargo, sanctions and various acts of subversion against Cuba in hopes of destroying socialism in that Caribbean Island nation.
• Recovering at least enough hegemony throughout Latin America — nearly all of which the U.S. dominated until perhaps 15 years ago — to undermine or remove left wing governments in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.
• Significantly increasing U.S. military engagement in Africa.
Both the right/far right Republican Party and the center right Democratic Party agree on these goals, although their language to describe them is always decorated with inspiring rhetoric about the triumph of American political and economic values; about spreading democracy and good feeling; about protecting the American people from terrorism and danger.
Today’s foreign/military policy goals are contemporary adaptations of a consistent, bipartisan international perspective that began to take shape at the end of World War II in 1945. Since the implosion of the Soviet Union ended the 45-year Cold War two decades ago — leaving the U.S. and its imperialist ambitions as the single world superpower — Washington protects its role as “unipolar” hegemon like a hungry dog with a meaty bone.
The people of the United States have no influence over the fundamentals of Washington’s foreign/military objectives. Many Americans seem to have no idea about Washington’s actual goals. As far as a large number of voters are concerned the big foreign/military policy/national security issues in the election boil down to Iran’s dangerous nuclear weapon; the need to stand up for Israel; stopping China from “stealing” American jobs; and preventing a terrorist attack on America.
One reason is the ignorance of a large portion of voters about past and present history and foreign affairs. Another is that many people still entertain the deeply flawed myths about “American exceptionalism” and the “American Century.” Lastly, there’s round-the-clock government and mass media misinformation.
After decades of living within an aggressive superpower it is no oddity that even ostensibly informed delegates to the recent Republican and Democratic political conventions engaged in passionate mass chanting of the hyper-nationalist “USA!, USA!, USA!,” when they were whipped up by party leaders evoking the glories of killing Osama bin-Laden, patriotism, war and the superiority of our way of life.
Since Romney has no foreign policy record, and he’ll probably do everything Obama would do only worse (and he probably won’t even win the election) we will concentrate mainly on Obama’s foreign/military policy and the pivot to China.
One of President Obama’s most important military decisions this year was a new strategic guidance for the Pentagon published Jan. 5 in a 16-page document titled “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.”
The new doctrine is the response by the White House and Congress to the stagnant economy and new military considerations. It reduces the number of military personnel and expects to lower Pentagon costs over 10 years by $487 billion, as called for by the Budget Control Act of 2011. This amounts to a cut of almost $50 billion a year in an overall annual Pentagon budget of about $700 billion, and most of the savings will be in getting rid of obsolete equipment and in payrolls. This may all be reversed by Congress.
Introducing “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership” to the media, Obama declared:
“As we look beyond the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — and the end of long-term nation-building with large military footprints — we’ll be able to ensure our security with smaller conventional ground forces. We’ll continue to get rid of outdated Cold War-era systems so that we can invest in the capabilities that we need for the future, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, counterterrorism, countering weapons of mass destruction and the ability to operate in environments where adversaries try to deny us access. So, yes, our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats.”
Following the president, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta declared:
“As we shift the size and composition of our ground, air and naval forces, we must be capable of successfully confronting and defeating any aggressor and respond to the changing nature of warfare. Our strategy review concluded that the United States must have the capability to fight several conflicts at the same time. We are not confronting, obviously, the threats of the past; we are confronting the threats of the 21st century. And that demands greater flexibility to shift and deploy forces to be able to fight and defeat any enemy anywhere. How we defeat the enemy may very well vary across conflicts. But make no mistake, we will have the capability to confront and defeat more than one adversary at a time.”