As I mentioned in a previous post, I have little respect for the Romney campaign’s foreign policy staffing choices, and his implosion abroad and choice of Paul Ryan do little to assuage my concerns. Colin Powell wasn’t wrong when he called them a collection of bad ideas with a good helping of crazy, and if nothing else he knows what incompetence in the field looks like firsthand from his own virtuoso performances. When Robert Kagan is what passes for the voice of reason, then the governor’s ongoing performance art rendition of the Dunning-Kruger effect might well lead to a toxic combination of ignorance and assertiveness in foreign policy not matched since…well, you know.
Anyway, Romney’s recent hire of Robert Zoellick is being regarded as a positive step because it angers all of the right people. But as with the Paul Ryan pick, Zoellick is someone that only looks good when compared to what Tea Partiers have made par for the course in the modern GOP. Zoellick is often described as a Bush I style “realist“, but let’s not forget what that means: broadly, he believes in using levers like his beloved World Bank to maintain more subtle but nevertheless absolute control of capital and power over the developing world (ie “the party like it’s 1989″ approach). Essentially, it’s the classic neoliberal model applied internationally, with weaker countries regarded in much the same way as 19th century empires view their colonies. More importantly, he has some of that modern Bush II flair in that he was ahead of the curve in framing American goals in terms of fighting evil and people who hate how awesome the US is. No, really.
Finally, a modern Republican foreign policy recognizes that there is still evil in the world — people who hate America and the ideas for which it stands. Today, we face enemies who are hard at work to develop nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, along with the missiles to deliver them. The United States must remain vigilant and have the strength to defeat its enemies. People driven by enmity or by a need to dominate will not respond to reason or goodwill. They will manipulate civilized rules for uncivilized ends.
That means the best we can say for a hypothetical President Romney is that we’ll have a return to purely rhetorical bullshit in service of crudely exploitative goals relative to the rest of the world, as opposed to the “smokes their own product” approach of neoconservatives. That’s not an unimportant difference, but it means the best case scenario is still potentially disastrous for a country trying to find its way in an increasingly multipolar world. I realize that it’s unreasonable of me to advocate voting on the basis of foreign policy rather than the nation’s preferred approach of arguing about who can be the job-creatingest job creator ever, but if a hyper-competent (and underappreciated) Hillary Clinton is barely keeping her head above water internationally, there’s no room for putting these bozos in office.