Romney’s Trip: Unanswered Questions
Seeking the Presidency requires a grasp of both the domestic and international arenas, particularly at a time of great change in the Middle East, great challenge in the Pacific, and continued threats from non-state actors.
Lacking specifics. The Governor’s repeated criticisms of President Obama’s policies are well known. Less well known are Romney’s alternatives. Then-Senator Obama used an international trip in 2008 to visit 9 countries, including Afghanistan, to provide a new level of detail and depth to his national security policies. He met with leaders, held three press availabilities, gave interviews with all the major networks, and took the time to greet large crowds. It was an opportunity for Obama to define his policies. Governor Romney has that same chance now.
Unclear World view. The trip also offers the Governor an opportunity to articulate his view of American power in the 21st century. Romney’s national security approach has been as unclear as his specific policies. He seems caught between the President’s approach, which he professes to dislike, and those of his neoconservative advisors, which he seems unwilling to publicly embrace. Given the tumultuous years prior to the Obama presidency, and the number of Bush-era advisors he has on his team, Romney needs to clarify his broader views.
A Theme of Unanswered Questions
The campaign thus far has focused almost entirely on domestic issues. During this time, the Romney campaign has consistently failed to deliver on a wide range of questions and policies. Proposals on the federal budget have failed to outline how it may be balanced. Tax policy proposals have left open questions about closing loopholes and specific corporate advantages. And of course, the Governor has refused to discuss either his own tax situation or the details of various companies he ran while at Bain Capital.
This level of vagueness is not acceptable in international affairs, either. Governor Romney needs to answer the following questions for his international trip to provide the clarity necessary for a presidential campaign.
The American people broadly view Iran as the most pressing national security threat facing our nation. Governor Romney has frequently criticized the President on this issue but offered little in the way of specific alternatives.
- What would Romney do beyond current policy to isolate, weaken, and surround Iran?
- Romney’s rhetoric on Iran has been aggressive; does the Governor plan or expect a war with Iran? What are his red lines that may trigger military action?
We currently have upwards of 60,000 troops in Afghanistan. The President’s policy foresees a handoff in 2014 with combat responsibilities handed off sooner. Romney has said he would “listen to the commanders” when it comes to Afghanistan.
- Romney has opposed the President’s timeline to end the war in Afghanistan. Today he seemed to change that position. Why?
Governor Romney has proposed that defense spending be pegged at 4% of GDP, with an increase of 100,000 in the size of the Army, in addition to an expanded navy and air force. Romney has not identified the strategy behind these increases, which seem to many unnecessary at a time when one war is over, a second is ending, and no state presents the existential threat to American once posed by the Soviet Union.
- What is the strategy behind Romney’s increase in defense spending, particularly at this time of budget pressure? How will he pay for this increase?
- Romney has opposed sequestration cuts and accused the Obama administration of harming military readiness. Does he know that Speaker Boehner and hundreds of fellow Republicans voted for these funding changes?
- How will Romney match his defense spending to the threats America faces? Why does America need a larger army even as wars end and wind down?
Changing Middle East
Romney has criticized the President for a ‘failure of leadership’ during the democratic movements of the middle east. In particular, he identified Obama’s approach to Libya last year and Syria this year. However, Governor Romney’s plan for a response to the “Arab Spring” was limited to bureaucratic reshuffling at the State Department.
- In Libya, European allies shared much of the burden; would Romney have changed that?
- In Syria, there is no international consensus for military intervention; would Romney go it alone?
- What is the Romney view on humanitarian intervention? Does he disagree with the Obama approach?
Military leaders have identified energy security as a national security challenge. They have invested in new technologies, including fielding solar panels with the Marines and testing advanced biofuels with the Navy.
- Romney has made a point of nearly always deferring to the judgment of military leaders. Does Romney support plans to gut DoD energy programs that military leaders support?