I want to give an outline of Romney's argument first so that everybody can evaluate it. I will follow that outline with my own thoughts. By the way, you can skip the introduction. It is mostly campaign platitudes.
In chapter one, Romney argues that there are currently four competing strategies for world leadership: the United States and the West (he does recognize that there is a wide range of thought within the West), China, Russia, and Islamic extremism. The first strategy represented by the United States is built on political freedom and free enterprise. China's strategy is built on free enterprise, but not political freedom. Russia's strategy is built on dominance of energy and political authoritarianism. Lastly, Islamic extremists seek to form a worldwide caliphate.
The theme of chapter one: if the United States declines, one of the other strategies will fill the void and our grandchildren will not be free (pg. 33).
He then goes on to excoriate the Obama administration for not sufficiently promoting the United States' strategy on the world stage. In fact, Romney spends about 13 pages portraying Obama as a leader who believes that the United States inevitably must decline. Romney says that Obama is the first President in modern history who views the United States as one nation among many, but not as the leader of the free world.
My take: Chapter one is much better than the introduction and Chapter Two (I will write about Chapter Two later). There are some flaws though.
First, Romney implies that if the United States does not continue to be the world's hegemon, that our grandchildren will not be free. Page 33:
These are the four strategies for world leadership that are in competition today. Only one if founded on freedom. Only one. Think of what that means. Only if America and the West succeed -- if our economic and military strength endure -- can we be confident that our children and grandchildren will be free. A strong America is good for peace, and it is essential for the spread of freedom.This sounds like hyperbole. In fact, during the undisputed hegemonic reign of the United States, there were various countries in the world that were unaffected by the freedom agenda of the United States. I have a hard time believing that if China surpasses the United States in economic strength (they are way behind in military strength) that our grandchildren will not be free. Nevertheless, this will be a powerful campaign slogan for Romney.
Second, Romney's portrayal of the President's foreign policy is fairly accurate, though he is also given to slight hyperbole. I do think that Romney is correct that Obama sees the United States in decline and that Obama might be okay with that. However, if Romney is going to spend the next two years trying to portray Obama as a weaker version of Jimmy Carter, then he is going to have a difficult time doing so. Barack Obama has in some ways been much more militaristic than George W. Bush. I think that Romney is going to have a hard time connecting a blow in the realm of foreign policy.
Getting specific, Romney is correct to blast Obama for neglecting to form a free trade agreement with Colombia. I also agree with Romney that Obama could do more to bolster America's relationship with its allies. However, Romney believes that Obama's policies are going to lead many Sunni Arab nations to move into Iran's sphere of influence. That doesn't seem likely with the Cold War that is currently being waged between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Romney is also a little too hard on the Obama administration's response to the coup in Honduras. In fact, judging by the cables of the American ambassador to Honduras, the Obama administration actually could have come out much stronger against the illegality of the coup. The crisis in Honduras, if anything, showed the incredible pragmatism of Barack Obama's foreign policy.
Having said all of that, I did enjoy the first chapter. I was actually a little surprised. I thought there would be much more politicking that there actually was. For the most part, chapter one was a coherent argument focusing on the outside world.
More to come...