[Related: In favor of Obama]
Mitt Romney likes to recount a conversation he had with Shimon Peres, the president of Israel, back when he was governor of Massachusetts. Peres told him that “America is unique in the history of the world for its willingness to sacrifice so many lives of its precious sons and daughters for liberty, not solely for itself but also for its friends.” What Peres said has been echoed by Gen. Colin Powell, who once remarked that the only land the United States ever asked for at the end of a war was enough to bury our dead.
American foreign policy is indeed unique, and it is our commitment to liberty — more, even, than our military might — that has made us the leader of the free world. Unfortunately, over the last four years, the character of our role in the world has changed, and not for the better.
We are failing to meet some serious challenges.
In the Middle East, the Arab Spring has given way to an Arab Winter. Iran is racing to acquire nuclear capability. Syria is slaughtering its citizens by the thousands in a bloody civil war that shows no signs of abating. Our ambassador to Libya has been murdered, our embassies stormed by protesters chanting Islamist propaganda and bearing the black flags of al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, the Chinese are ramping up military production while intimidating their neighbors, and the Russians are bullying our allies in Eastern Europe and stymying our efforts in the U.N. to contain Iran.
Some have suggested that the time of American hegemony on the world stage has simply come to an end. We no longer wield the influence we once held, and with our stagnant economy, we are in no position to reclaim it.
President Obama has governed as if this were the case. He has sought to engage Iran’s ayatollahs without preconditions and declined to support the green revolution that erupted in the streets of Iranian cities in 2009. His choices did little more than give Tehran more time to pursue the atomic bomb. He has pursued a reset with Russia, one that involved a betrayal of our allies in Poland and the Czech Republic on the critical issue of missile defense.
Although President Obama has demonstrated remarkable “flexibility” with America’s adversaries, he has kept some of our allies, particularly Israel, at arm’s length. The president has sought to put “daylight” between the two countries. He has refused to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu. He has been caught on an open microphone insulting the prime minister, and he refuses to call Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
These failures of President Obama on the world stage are not only failures of policy; they are failures of leadership. In fact, some of President Obama’s positions are not all that different from those of his harshest critics. The problem is that his words are seldom backed up by action. Our foreign adversaries neither fear nor respect him. Thus, President Obama loudly declares that Iran must not acquire a nuclear weapon, and the ayatollahs greet his declaration with a shrug as they accelerate their nuclear program. The Chinese continue to cheat on trade with no fear of repercussions. The Russians block our efforts to end the slaughter in Syria without a second thought. The list goes on.
This points to one of the more significant differences between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Mitt Romney has an unbroken track record of carrying out his promises. No one will doubt a President Romney when he says that he has Israel’s back. Tehran will not doubt America’s resolve to stop it from gaining a nuclear capability. With a firm American policy, the days of Bashar al-Assad will be numbered. Governments around the Middle East will know that if our embassies are attacked and our personnel killed, they will suffer consequences. Certainly American taxpayer dollars will not continue to flow to governments that undermine us.
Most importantly, Mitt Romney will restore the sinews of American strength. We cannot maintain a strong position on the world stage with an economy mired in stagnation. Mitt Romney has a comprehensive plan to put our country back on the path of economic growth and create jobs for all who seek them.
Similarly, we cannot maintain a military commensurate with our stature if we fail to repair our economy. As things stand, President Obama has already cut $500 billion from our armed forces, and even deeper cuts are on the way. Mitt Romney understands that we must reverse these cuts, that weakness invites aggression, and that if we are to stand by our allies in the Middle East and around the world, we need the forces to back up our words.
Mitt Romney also understands that American power is much more than our combined economic and military might. Rather, the power of our ideas, of our principles, our commitment to human liberty, is what has made us so influential around the world. If we are to retain our influence, we cannot bend from our principles. We must stand up for our ideas, and for those around the world who share them.
American leadership is needed now more than ever. And if we are to make our foreign-policy goals a reality, we need a president who has the strength of conviction to follow through on his words. We haven’t had that these last four years. It is time that we did. Mitt Romney is the leader we need in this moment of opportunity and danger.