Mitt Romney might be a better congressman than president. His seemingly no-nonsense (seemingly, I say) approach to the deficit and fairness in the tax system, cutting the rates but cutting loopholes too, and his insistence that deficit spending must be curtailed and that the national debt has to be paid down not run up is probably illustrative of the type of thinking we need in congress, where spending bills originate. But we would need more than one person or congressman thinking like that. In fact we would need nearly the whole electorate thinking like that. Unfortunately I think most people would rather that someone else, another taxpayer in another bracket or one in someone else’s congressional district, sacrifice.
I’m not sure Mr. Romney’s priorities are in the right place, though. I mean although this whole Big Bird controversy is silly, he is the one who took national debate time to zero in on the government spending on Sesame Street. What about all that money we spend on wars of choice and wars to push our geopolitical power (and not very successfully at that)? I don’t think we have run up a trillion dollars or more on Big Bird.
Romney wants to continue the decades-long policy of meddling in the affairs of other nations in order to shape the world in a way more convenient for the United States. In the past we supported dictators who may have promised and we may have hoped would give more freedom to their people. We did this because we felt the alternative was to see these nations fall under the domination of the late but not forgotten Soviet Union and communism. And then we kept on doing this with the idea that we would prevent nations from falling under the domination of extremist Islam and cutting off our oil supply and other trade activities. The Neocon movement (something you the reader here are free to look up if you are not familiar and good luck really understanding it) and others felt it best that we pushed our influence wherever possible. The Neocons even wrote a paper, Project for a New American Century, I think it was called, in which they said, among other things, that it might take another Pearl Harbor to wake up the American electorate to the danger of losing our grasp on the world stage, particularly in the oil-rich Middle East. And conveniently enough we had 9/11 (and I do not mean to suggest by the tone of that last sentence that it was an inside job, but I do mean think tank words have meaning).
Okay, enough of the background. I just don’t think militarism is a good thing. It was not a good thing when the German Nazis tried it and when Gen. Tojo of Japan tried it, and just because we, the United States of America, are on the side of freedom and democracy (not to mention God), it is not so good for us either.
One of the major problems is we get into this thing of pretending that we are going “over there” to help oppressed people (not just ourselves) but for some reason end up in a hopeless effort of trying to “win the hearts and minds” of the poor folks we are supposedly trying to help. We always have difficulty doing this because among other things we do things like blow up their huts (destroying the village to save it, ala Vietnam) or wiping out innocent men and women and children by unmanned drone strikes in an attempt to get the real bad guys (in the Middle East today).
Romney criticizes President Obama’s policy in the so-called Arab Spring for not sorting through who to support and letting, for example, the Muslim Brotherhood win out in Egypt. A dictatorship was replaced with a narrow-minded Islamic faction. At least dictators have been tolerant of, say Christians, in Egypt and have been more open sometimes to to the rights of women (under Islam they have none; I suspect under strict fundamentalist Christianity they would have little either, but I digress — well did I ever tell you about the time some Southern Baptists came to my house and almost giggling told me how I would enjoy some of the perks of their religion, such as wives must “submit” to their husbands?). Anyway, it seems to me our foreign policy ought to be to get along with all recognized governments and let people take care of their own affairs. We must insist, however, that they not interfere with our right to foreign trade. Way back when, in the early 19th Century, we sent the Navy and the Marines to deal with the Barbary Coast pirates of North Africa and were eventually successful. We did not try to win the hearts and minds of the people.
For our own sake we must maintain our position as still the world’s only superpower (and yes there are certain responsibilities that come along with that, I suppose, and going kind of circular here, in order to remain the super power, there may be times we need to use or project our power beyond our borders and overseas, but we should do so sparingly).
So we need to have a strong defense. But that does not mean there is not waste in that defense budget.
I can’t say that I really understand what President Obama’s foreign policy is, except a modified version of the Bush doctrine and a more cautious approach.
What we need is something between caution and out-and-out interventionism.
There are times when a president has to act boldly — that would be especially when we are under attack. After 9/11 George W. Bush sent troops into Afghanistan because that is where the 9/11 attack was staged. But then the neocons conflated the effort into their wider vision of gaining hegemony over the entire oil rich region (and you know there is a case for that, but that is more like running an empire). For wider public consumption they sold the idea of expanding our control to that of fighting for our own defense and promoting freedom.
(And remind me what we have reaped from a decade of war in the Middle East.)
Bush’s rationale was that we were conducting an open-ended war on terror. That open-ended war could well bankrupt us.
There will always be bad people out there and we hope we have the intelligence operation to detect them before they do harm to us. But a constant state of war is not sustainable.
And back to Big Bird. Conservatives just don’t like PBS (the home of Big Bird) because they see it as a liberal-in-tone institution feeding off of their tax dollars (and some may well see it as subversive). But their kids love Big Bird and even Romney said he did, but he also knew it was an easy symbolic target.