Back For More: Obama V Romney Round 2
Fresh from ‘winning’ last week’s first presidential debate, Mitt Romney will look to capitalise on Barack Obama’s meek performance and strike another blow to try and aid his campaign for the White House, in the second presidential debate taking place this Tuesday.
But winning a battle is one thing. Winning the war is quite another.
Obama didn’t even mention Romney’s 47% gaffe once in the first debate. Was he scared of going in for the kill so soon? Is he saving things for the second and third debates?
The first debate focused solely on domestic policy. The second debate will introduce foreign policy alongside domestic policy, before concentrating solely on foreign policy in the third round. Naturally, one would assume that Obama has the upper hand with foreign policy, he has, after all, presided over a period where the USA has seen military confrontation continue in Afghanistan and Iraq; where the USA has been exposed to the Arab Spring; where the USA has helped rid Libya of Colonel Gaddafi; where the USA has pressured the United Nations Security Council for intervention in Syria; where the USA has been engaged with Iran and other countries over nuclear capability; where the Israel-Palestine issue has continued and of course where the USA’s, new African-American President won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Obama’s CV extends to more than the standard two pages most job-seekers have.
Obama’s foreign policy record is a mixed one. Romney doesn’t have any foreign policy experience , one commentator at the Guardian described it as a critique instead.
So, how do Obama and Romney differ on the foreign policy front?
Well, according to two prominent American-Muslim organisations, quite a lot. But according to another commentator, Professor Inderjeet Parmar of City University in London, writing in Political Insight, not much at all.
Parmar proclaims, “Differences between Democrats and Republicans are minimal in practice: they are parties of the Establishment that are completely united in their faith in US power.” This US power is to be spread through assertive “democracy promotion” he says.
However, this statement is more apt when comparing Obama to George W. Bush. Parmar does say that, “The Obama administration has continued and developed the policies of George W. Bush,” and that, “Obama’s militarism has pushed Romney to ever greater extremes.” Parmar doesn’t contradict himself when he states that Romney is being driven to an extreme (which could highlight a difference), it merely highlights to readers a difference in bellicosity between the two candidates.
But, Parmar does describe Obama as ‘out-Bushing Bush for militarism’. Considering the level of aggression shown by Bush and his Neocon chums whilst in power, what has Obama done to be described as such? And if there is a difference in bellicosity, how bellicose is Romney then? And should the world be worried, should Romney win in November?
Parmer highlights numerous examples of Obama’s ‘out-Bushing of Bush’: Obama increased the use of deadly drones considerably from his predecessor; retained rendition as a practice; prevented inmates in American prisons abroad from enjoying constitutional protections; kept Guantanamo Bay and its imprisonment facilities open; extended surveillance and ordered a military surge in Afghanistan, whilst continuing to sell arms to corrupt leaders. Obama ordered the successful killing of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, with complete disregard for international law and continues to target others on a secret ‘kill list’, with drones regardless of who else gets killed in the process. Obama has ‘defended, financed and armed’ Israel, as it continues to build new and expand existing settlements on Palestinian land and he has signed military treaties with numerous states bordering China in a clear provocative move.
Romney gets similar treatment from Parmar. “[Romney’s] inner circle is reputed to be similar to Bush’s ‘vulcans’ – neoconservative hardliners who appear to think that the Iraq war was a great American victory and that the military budget should be increased.” Parmar describes Romney drawing his foreign policy advisers from re-organised and renewed Neoconservatives, who once backed the now-defunct Project for the New American Century (which aimed "to promote American global leadership", because “American leadership is both good for America and good for the world”).
These Neocons along with “the counsel of old time Republican internationalists” have veered Romney towards bellicose declarations: kill the Taliban anywhere they are, greater military and economic pressure on Iran (Romney has accused Obama of being weak on the issue), and more arms to Taiwan. Romney also declared Russia as the US’ main geopolitical enemy.
Considering what happened the last time a US President had neocons around him, the world wouldn’t be such a safe place with Romney installed in the White House. Obama, for example, has talked about a world without nuclear weapons and supports initiatives like Global Zero, that seek to eradicate them. Romney has ridiculed this and has even warned that arms treaties that seek to reduce stockpiles with Russia are dangerous.
But the world hasn’t been safe without the Neocons around either. In fact it has got worse since we waved goodbye to ‘Dubya’. Who feels safe with Obama around?