(This is the second #NoApologyBoockClub post. The first post is here.)
No Apology is subtitled “The Case for American Greatness”* and Mitt Romney does make the case persuasively.
Here we will cover the first two chapters of the book which are about America’s place in the world and our foreign policy. (Thanks to Anna Belle for suggesting we break the book into 3 parts – Foreign Policy, Domestic Policy, and how the two meet on the issue of Globalization. Since FP is so content intensive, I am doing two posts on it. This is the first.)
These first two chapters are The Pursuit of the Difficult and Why Nations Decline.
The Pursuit of the Difficult
“I hate to weed,” is how this book opens. Apparently weeding the garden was one of young Mitt’s chores, and whenever he complained about it, his dad would reply “Mitt, the pursuit of the difficult makes men strong.” Romney then writes about how he has found this to be true – in his family’s history as refugees from Mexico, in businesses like American Motor Company and Staples, and in our nation’s history, from the Revolution, WWII, and the Cold War.
Just like individual’s, companies, and human enterprises of every kind, nations that are undaunted by the challenges they face become stronger. Those that shrink from difficult tasks become weaker.
America will remain the leading nation in the world only if we overcome our challenges. We will be strong, free, prosperous, and safe….What’s chilling to consider is that if America is not the superpower, others will take our place. What nation or nations would rise, and what would be the consequences for our safety, freedom, and prosperity?
Romney points out that there are four competing strategies for world leadership; in her excellent review, Anna Belle sums them up as follows:
One is the American vision, which is founded on free markets and political freedoms. Another is the Chinese vision, which is also based on free markets, but with a decidedly authoritarian view of individual freedoms. The third is the resurrection of Russian supremacy, i.e. an oligarchic model based on energy domination, with again, that authoritarian approach to individuality. Finally, the fourth is the jihadist vision, led by Iran, that is founded on a notion of religious supremacy and an attempt at cultural hegemony for the specific reason that the current cultural domination of America and the West is immoral.
He says our vision should remain the supreme vision because it is the only one that offers, protects, and promotes more opportunity and expression in the world. He makes the case for how these two things–economic and political freedoms–actually reinforce each other and create a state wherein humanity can thrive and grow.
In Romney’s words:
There are four strategies for world leadership that are in competition. Only one is founded on freedom. Only one.
President Obama’s foreign policy is “a rupture with some of the key assumptions that have undergirded more than six decades of American foreign policy.” At the end of World War II, with the world in shambles, President Truman “set out to create a new international order with America in the permanent lead, as the protector and defender of a particular world order.” The new order had three pillars: active involvement in world affairs, promotion of American and Western ideals (democracy, free enterprise, human rights), and a collective security umbrella for America & her allies. The UN , the IMF, the WB, GATT (WTO), NAto, etc, were all created towards these goals. All of Truman’s successors, (“Jimmy Carter being the closest to an exception”), upheld these traditions and believed America should lead the free world.
Romney, I think, is completely appalled by “President Obama’s American Apology Tour.” He lists the ways that Obama, even by March 2010, had alienated America’s allies and won the praise of America’s enemies, and the pattern that shows Obama does not believe that America is unique – it is just one nation among many. He draws the contrast by saying “I reject the idea that America must decline” – the implication is that Obama’s leadership is leading our nation into decline.
Why Nations Decline
I thought this chapter was fascinating. Romney argues that there are common causes for the decline of great empires: the Ottoman empire, Spain & Portugal, Imperial China, the British empire, even the Dutch. One of these is isolation – a policy of shutting out foreign invention, learning, and economic isolation. “Their retreat from the marketplace of ideas and their retreat from the marketplace of goods inevitably led to their retreat from the pinnacle of leadership.”
Another factor in decline is a refusal to act – they refuse to see the threat, so they have no reason to act to avert it. Part of this is human nature – to forestall panic, we naturally minimize dangers. Another is a form of mental inertia – we feel like things will always continue as they are. Aiding in this are the members of the powerful who benefit from maintaining the status quo, and the short-term self-interests of some common citizens (obamaphone!). There is also the failure of independent opinion leaders – educators, writers, scientists, and the media – to say what needs to be heard.
But some nations are actually able to overcome these factor and reverse decline. Why? Romney identifies four catalysts or conditions: a shocking wake-up call, the presence of a great leader, national consensus, and finally deep and broad-based national strength. I am fascinated by how these factors he lists back in early 2010 seem almost predictive of Nov 2012.
(Part 2 will discuss threats around us and the foreign policy vision we need.)