Romney, War, and the Republican Base: Libertarians May Split

Foreign policy is scarcely on the media radar covering Romney. Yet it is liable to have very great effect upon most Americans in the next years. Domestic problems are so intractable with voters so divided and cutting spending so difficult that foreign wars may be seen as a way to unite Americans and calm domestic strife. They would confuse and postpone painful budget decisions as they did for George Bush’s first term. There’s a memorable line in Shakespeare, where a king is urged to have plenty of wars abroad in order to have tranquility at home.

We should be very wary of trusting Republicans again with the constitution in their hands. Republican laws to allow the President by himself to declare martial law, even for bad weather, see the Military Commissions Act, the Patriot Act’s gutting of the 4th Amendment about search and seizure, new laws voiding habeas corpus, allowing torture of American citizens and military arrest show the way America is headed. More foreign wars will mean more loss of Americans’ liberties. Allowing arrest of anyone for such vague a crime as “support for terrorists” is the easy first step to restricting freedom of speech. Yet these are the kinds of laws most Republican congressmen vote for, even without Bush and after 10 years without a terrorist attack, most recently in the National Defense Authorization Act. For many libertarians our freedoms will be safer with divided government—then each Party can restrain the other.

The most prosperity America had in recent years was during the 90’s with a Democratic President and a Republican Congress. Admittedly Obama doesn’t have the smarts of Bill Clinton who moved to the center after winning election, Obama stayed on the Left. But his agenda of higher taxes, destructive regulations, support for government unions, and pandering to extreme environmentalists appears less dangerous to our freedoms than another war wanting Republican presidency, also controlling Congress. The worst aspects of Obama’s agenda can be blocked by a Republican congress and governors; our efforts as libertarians should be to focus on the congressional elections. A winning Romney would get America into new wars abroad that Democrats might then win the mid-term elections and the next presidency as well. He is very unlikely to instigate the real budget reforms (in defense, medicare and medicaid spending) where most of our trillion dollars deficit comes from.

Amazingly the anti-war, anti-interventionist vote, which helped bring Obama victory in 2008, is totally ignored by Romney and Republican congressional leaders. Half of Americans under 30 support Ron Paul’s views that America is simply incapable of “ruling the world,” that the greater likelihood is bankrupting ourselves. He was the largest Republican recipient of donations from soldiers overseas; yet Republican leaders have totally abandoned them.

It is incredible how Romney has brought back the old Bush gang, discredited neoconservatives and Washington empire wanters. His main adviser Dan Senor, was chief spokesman for Paul Bremer and the blundering military occupation in Iraq which dismissed Iraq’s whole civil service, all teachers and military/police infrastructure causing such chaos as to help instigate that nation’s destruction and civil war. Then it imposed an electoral system virtually designed to fail. Senor’s sister is the AIPAC representative in Israel.

It is widely reported that John Bolton will become his Secretary of State. Bolton was one of the worst propagandists for all of the lies leading up to the Iraq War. He is always urging war first as the solution to any foreign policy threat or dispute. He is known for his beliefs, reported by James Lucier, Jesse Helms former foreign policy staffer, that America should “not grant any validity to international law” because it will be “used by those who want to constrict the United States.” Think how contrary this is to America’s successful historic policy— “that it was in the U.S. interest to gain legitimacy by leading through the architecture of multilateral institutions.” The National Interest, Sept-Oct, 2012, “Romney’s Neocon Puzzle.”

One might argue that Romney is just pandering to the Republican “base,” mostly aging white males in the American heartland still steeped in cold war thinking and heavily influenced by evangelical Armageddonites agitating for religious war with the Muslim world. Others are hyped up by the War Party into panic about “Sharia law” taking over America or the hype that China is a new threat. Most are very ignorant and fearful of the outside world. Romney’s neocon staffing and his recent showing of such ignorance about Palestinians (saying they earn half the income of Israelis—actually it is 10%) show how easily he will be manipulated by Washington’s War Party intellectuals. He anyway believes, witness his threat to declare China a currency manipulator, that confrontation is the way to promote “American greatness.” He also declared (CBS Face the Nation) that he, as President, could start wars (e.g.with Iran) without any congressional vote or approval.

The National Interest’s writer, James Kitfield, ibid, in a long, thoughtful article, writes how the Bush Doctrine, which Romney wants to resurrect, was “a focus on coercion and regime change, preventative war and unilateral action masked by ad hoc ‘coalition of the willing.’ It led to a pronounced decline of trust in the quality of U.S. leadership. For perhaps the first time in the modern era, even close U.S. allies came to distrust American motives.” Kitfield reports on Romney’s accusation against Obama’s outreach to global constituencies as “a turning away from ‘American exceptionalism.’” He quotes former Bush 41’s adviser Brent Scowcroft’s commentary, “the decision (by Bush 43) to …..try to deal with those problems (terrorism and the empowerment of non-state actors) as a unilateral nation-state using traditional military power, is what brought America to the point of crisis.”

Admittedly Obama has adopted much of the same war policies which Republican leaders demand, in order to take away their issue. In a second term he might return to a more realistic foreign policy, although perhaps he really is a hawk. But it’s unlikely he would be as belligerent as the Republicans. The Democratic Left may have more restraining influence upon him than do realists and libertarian constitutionalists upon Republicans. One must also always factor in the business interests, think tanks and jobs which war spending supports and which lobby for continuing war threats.

On constitutional freedoms the candidates offer little choice. Reason’s Steve Chapman details in Obama & Romney vs. the Bill of Rights how both are a continuing threat to Americans’ freedoms. Similarly, Cato’s Gene Healy writes, “Do you prefer a candidate who’s flagrantly violated his promises not to violate the Constitution, or one who tells you right up front that he’ll probably commit the same abuses?”

In any case, Romney is losing ground. Ron Paul voters are largely disaffected, while Latins and other immigrants’ families won’t forget the tremendous calumny against immigrants during the primaries. Women are polled at least 16% favoring Obama. Wall Street Journal op-ed writer Charles Blow wrote in Wrong Track Romney (8/11/12), “he’s willing to say anything and embrace anyone to further his ambitions, which is as distasteful a character trait as they come.” He cites a Fox News poll showing that only 26% of Americans would be “extremely comfortable” or “somewhat comfortable” with Romney as President. In his nomination acceptance speech now he said in almost the same breath, “Obama’s trillion dollar deficits will slow our economy, restrain employment…..” and “his trillion dollar cuts to our military will eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs…..” The actual cut to military spending is $37 Billion under the sequestration plan voted for by Republicans when the debt ceiling was increased. The trillion he refers to would be the cuts if subsequent Congresses also voted for them.

There is a positive side to Romney losing. It might cause Republicans to reform the primary selection process which many good candidates with universal appeal choose to avoid. “The base” puts off proven candidates, who could win nationally, from even competing in the primaries. Four years from now it will be less powerful. Republicans will then be more able to choose a Rand Paul or one of the rising new governors as a unifying candidate. Now we should just work hard to get disaffected Libertarian voters to bother going to the polls to support freedom oriented Congressional candidates.

Author: Jon Basil Utley

Jon Basil Utley is associate publisher of The American Conservative. He was a foreign correspondent in South America for the Journal of Commerce and Knight Ridder newspapers and former associate editor of The Times of the Americas. He is a writer and adviser for and edits a blog, The Military Industrial Congressional Complex.