Foreign Policy: Grading Mitt Romney's Responses

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GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigns at Robie's Country Store, Oct. 10, 2011 in Hooksett, New Hampshire. Romney and the rest of the crowded field of GOP candidates will square off in a debate Tuesday night at Dartmouth College. i i

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GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigns at Robie's Country Store, Oct. 10, 2011 in Hooksett, New Hampshire. Romney and the rest of the crowded field of GOP candidates will square off in a debate Tuesday night at Dartmouth College.

Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigns at Robie's Country Store, Oct. 10, 2011 in Hooksett, New Hampshire. Romney and the rest of the crowded field of GOP candidates will square off in a debate Tuesday night at Dartmouth College.

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigns at Robie's Country Store, Oct. 10, 2011 in Hooksett, New Hampshire. Romney and the rest of the crowded field of GOP candidates will square off in a debate Tuesday night at Dartmouth College.

Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images

Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

As I noted previously, compared to his GOP rivals, Mitt Romney has some actual foreign policy thinking going on. On the other hand, as Dan Trombly points out, doing better than Herman Cain or Rick Perry is a really low bar. So, looked at objectively, what's my assessment of Romney's foreign policy white paper?

I could go through it line by line, but James Joyner already did that for The Atlantic. As it turns out, I'm reaching a course called The Art and Science of Statecraft that will require students to write a grand strategy document. Sooo.... if Mitt Romney was one of my students, how would I grade him? See below:

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Mitt,

You and your study team have clearly put a lot of work into "An American Century." It's cogently written and organized. Your basic statement of purpose — "advance an international system that is congenial to the institutions of open markets, representative government, and respect for human rights (p. 7)" — fits perfectly within the mainstream of American foreign policy thinking. You've done an excellent job of demonstrating an awareness of the complexity of threats that face the United States in the 21st century. I liked it on p. 6 when you noted that:

In the highly dynamic realm of national security and foreign policy there are seldom easy answers. Discrete circumstances in disparate regions of the world demand different kinds of approaches. There is no silver bullet for the problem of securing the United States and protecting our interests around the world.

You've also demonstrated an appropriate awareness that American power rests on more than a strong military. When you note that a Romney administration would "apply the full spectrum of hard and soft power to influence events before they erupt into conflict (p. 8)," I caught myself nodding along.

Some of the details are intriguing as well. I need to look more into these "Reagan economic zones" that you mention a lot, but applying them to Latin America and the Pacific Rim make a great deal of strategic and economic sense. I'm not fully persuaded that your notion of creating regional envoys to organize all "soft power resources" is all that different from the foreign policy czars or special envoys of administrations past, but this kind of argument fits well with your management background.

That said, there are some logical flaws and major gaps in this draft that will have to be corrected if you want to earn a better grade. The first problem is the style. I recognize that you've written this as a campaign document, so you're never going to completely eliminate the unadulterated horsheshit allegations about the current president going on an apology tour. Maybe you could do it a bit more subtly in the future, however?

Secondly, there's a lack of historical awareness in some parts of the document. For example, on page 7 the paper says:

[A] Romney foreign policy will proceed with clarity and resolve. The United States will clearly enunciate its interests and values. Our friends and allies will not have doubts about where we stand and what we will do to safeguard our interests and theirs; neither will our rivals, competitors, and adversaries.

Now, reading this, I kept thinking back to the Bush administration and its repeated assetions that that there would be no hypocrisy in foreign affairs. Much like Bush, reality turned out to be trickier. I suspect you know this, from the other excerpts noted earlier. So get rid of this fluff: I'm sure statements like this play well in a management consulting boardroom, but it's not going to cut it in the real world.

Continue reading at Foreign Policy.

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