Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Diplomacy

If Mitt Romney wanted to show just how different his approach to foreign policy would be from that of Barack Obama, his European trip succeeded beyond what anyone could have expected. The question is, to the extent that American voters even care about foreign policy, just how different do they want our foreign policy to be?

Mitt Romney took care to offend our friends and enemies alike. He had the Prime Minister of the UK making cracks about how different it is to hold the Olympics in a large city as opposed to the middle of nowhere. He provoked the Mayor of London into taunting him in front of a huge crowd in Hyde Park. He told the Palestinian Arabs they are culturally inferior, or disfavored by God, as compared to the Jews. He took care to insult newly-reelected Russian President Putin in a speech in Poland, and his team became increasingly hostile to the media.

What we learn from this trip, in which Romney announced no major foreign policy proposals per se, is that what would change in a Romney presidency is the tone America takes toward the rest of the world. Romney evidently thinks that President Obama is too popular abroad. That he is too friendly and cooperative with foreign leaders. That Obama goes out of his way to make people abroad like and respect him. Romney makes it all too clear that he will have none of that. He would make sure that people in other countries--leaders as well as ordinary folk--have every reason to hate and resent the United States.

I'm guessing that style suits a lot of Romney's supporters just fine. They don't seem to care if America is popular abroad. If they did, they would support President Obama's re-election, for Obama has immeasurably raised America's standing in the world from the dismal levels to which it sank toward the end of the Bush years, and has obtained unprecedented levels of cooperation in dealing with terrorism, nuclear weapons, dictators, trade, and other important problems.

If you think international cooperation is overrated; if you think we need more enemies and fewer friends; if you believe that insulting and antagonizing our neighbors is the best way to conduct foreign policy; or maybe if you just don't care all that much about foreign policy and think it's not a very important part of the job of president; if you believe all that, Mitt Romney has proven he is your man.

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