Sunday, October 07, 2012

Daylight Between the U.S. and Its Allies

Daniel Larison comments on Mitt Romney's election rhetoric that there should be no "daylight" between America and allied governments:
Grant is correct that Romney’s criticism and understanding of U.S.-client relationships are nonsensical, but this isn’t the first time Romney has said this sort of thing. It has been true of Romney’s statements on this subject for months. Whether he has described it in terms of “no daylight” or “not an inch of difference” or “locking arms” with allied and client governments, Romney has made this nonsensical, unworkable idea a pillar of his foreign policy.
Larison goes on to state what should be obvious:
A major part of managing these relationships successfully is acknowledging disagreements when they exist, finding ways to work around them, and keeping them from derailing constructive relations in other areas. There will also be cases where different allied and friendly governments will have competing or contradictory interests. When that happens, the U.S. can’t be expected to side entirely with one party over another, and it certainly can’t support both states in their goals at the same time. Romney’s “not an inch of space” view would fail badly if it were put into practice, and the fact that Romney thinks this is a clever position to take suggests that he hasn’t given the matter much thought.
If a Democratic candidate were issuing similar statements, it is difficult to imagine that the Republicans would not (justifiably) ridicule it as weakness. We would hear about how when U.S. interests are at stake, if our allies want no daylight between their position and ours, our allies should do the moving. "You're either with us or against us."

There are reasons both parties at times, and with certain countries, make statements about special relationships, a near-perfect alignment of interests, and the like, no matter what the U.S. might do in the event of a direct clash of interests. With Romney we have the difficulty of having little sign that he has given any thought to foreign policy, and even less evidence that he has any real appreciation of the issues he addresses. He'll have some poll-driven talking points for the foreign policy elements of the upcoming debate but what does he actually believe? How could you possibly know?

My sense of Romney is that he genuinely believes in U.S. exceptionalism, and that his beliefs play into why he has given the issue so little thought. If God guides America's hand, you don't have to spend much time thinking about whether God is right or wrong. But by the same token, that would mean that his "daylight" comments, like pretty much everything else out of his mouth, is poll-driven demagoguery.

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