Romney harks back to hero Reagan's 'evil empire'

Mon, Nov 5, 2012, 00:00

It has become fashionable to suggest there is little difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney over the main international challenges facing the US and its allies, and that few real changes in American foreign policy will occur should the Republican win. Such assessments are dangerously shortsighted.

Romney’s approach is underpinned by delusional nostalgia for the 1980s, a harking back to the cold war era when the US believed it led the world in facing down the “evil empire” (Soviet Union), when entire continents were divided into tame client nations and rogue states, and when western values were promoted as a nonpareil paradigm.

Like most conservative Republicans, Romney’s number one hero is Ronald Reagan, president from 1981-1989.

Evidently relishing the role of Reagan retread, Romney has been busily colouring in the world map to the simplistic, neo-imperial design favoured by his late mentor.

Hence Vladimir Putin’s Russia is resurrected as a prime foe. “Russia is a destabilising force on the world stage. It needs to be tempered,” Romney says.

Despite recent attempts at moderation, the Romney doctrine also posits confrontation over co-operation with China, a communist rival whose economy will outgrow the US by the end of the decade. It is thus a fitting heir to the “evil empire”. Tariff wars over Chinese imports may be just the start.

Romney appears to see the western Pacific as a whole new cold war-style conflict zone. He promises a tougher line on Iran’s nuclear activities. He says he will arm Syria’s rebels.

He threatens a virtual blockade of North Korea, vows to avenge war crimes allegedly of Sudan’s leadership and warns the Palestinians that any attempt to assert their statehood without Israel’s agreement will bring heavy penalties.

This will be underwritten by a big expansion of defence spending, again echoing Reagan’s 1980s. To achieve this end and ignoring record federal debt, Romney plans to add $2 trillion over the next decade to the Pentagon’s already enormous $711 billion annual budget.

Obama is pledging a prolongation of his pragmatic-aspirational foreign policy that characterised his first term and disappointed many supporters – tight focus on the Afghanistan-Pakistan withdrawal, action against al-Qaeda, careful management of the Arab spring and Iran dossiers, new emphasis on Asia and denuclearisation. – (Guardian service)