In what Republicans are heralding as an attempt to chart a new course for America in international affairs, Mitt Romney on Monday outlined the key elements of what will become his foreign policy if elected president. At the heart of Romney's speech at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is a call for a more assertive national security policy, centered around the principle of American exceptionalism:
This is what makes America exceptional: It is not just the character of our country - it is the record of our accomplishments. America has a proud history of strong, confident, principled global leadership - a history that has been written by patriots of both parties. That is America at its best. And it is the standard by which we measure every President, as well as anyone who wishes to be President. Unfortunately, this President's policies have not been equal to our best examples of world leadership.
But one thing is clear from Romney's foray into foreign affairs. His national security policy is intimately tied to a yet unannounced environmental policy: the promotion of an international campaign to plant money growing trees.
Romney's definitely going green - although not the type of green the Sierra Club and National Wildlife Federation have in mind.
As his speech at VMI made clear, his foreign policy is predicated on a robust defense:
The decisions we make today will determine our ability to protect America tomorrow. The first purpose of a strong military is to prevent war. The size of our Navy is at levels not seen since 1916. I will restore our Navy to the size needed to fulfill our missions by building 15 ships per year, including three submarines. I will implement effective missile defenses to protect against threats. And on this, there will be no flexibility with Vladimir Putin. And I will call on our NATO allies to keep the greatest military alliance in history strong by honoring their commitment to each devote 2 percent of their GDP to security spending. Today, only 3 of the 28 NATO nations meet this benchmark.
At a time when the federal deficit is near record numbers and the debt ceiling has been pushed to a new all-time high of over $16 trillion, can the United States really afford to build 15 naval ships per year? For that matter, will adding three submarines per year really impact the four main foreign policy problems he highlighted in his speech: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria?
Of course, magic trees that sprout dollar-bills will certainly make a big difference. But given Romney's designs, it won't be enough for Americans to do the planting. Our allies need to start digging too. Otherwise, how are economically plagued countries like Spain, Portugal, and Greece - or for that matter any NATO ally other than the United Kingdom - going to satisfy Romney's two percent demand in the coming years?
Romney concluded his speech by decrying:
We must show them that we still have faith in ourselves--that we have the will and the wisdom to revive our stagnant economy, to roll back our unsustainable debt, to reform our government, to reverse the catastrophic cuts now threatening our national defense, to renew the sources of our great power, and to lead the course of human events.
I can think of few better examples of American exceptionalism than the ability to produce genetically-modified flora that will give us the wealth we need to pay for Romney's world order.
If we are to take Romney's cue and follow his lead, we better all get our shovels out.