Home/Daniel Larison/“Not an Inch of Difference”: Romney’s Ludicrous Plan for Managing Relations with Allies and Clients

“Not an Inch of Difference”: Romney’s Ludicrous Plan for Managing Relations with Allies and Clients

Romney repeated the idea that there shouldn’t be an “inch of difference” between Israel and the United States at the debate last night. This is consistent with what he has been saying throughout the campaign, and the only difference this time was that he said “inch of difference” rather than “inch of space.” It’s also indistinguishable from statements that Huntsman and Perry made in the weeks and days before they dropped out.

Consider the absurdity that the presidential nominating contest of the more American nationalist of the two major parties has been filled with candidates that cannot and will not distinguish between Israeli and U.S. interests. Their own words confirm that this is how they think about the bilateral relationship. Not only are these candidates mistakenly identifying the interests of the two states in a misguided expression of solidarity, but they are shouting it from the rooftops and implicitly finding fault with anyone who doesn’t conflate the interests of the two states as completely as they do.

Romney’s error is more significant because he is on record affirming that this is how he thinks all U.S. alliances and client relationships should work:

You don’t allow an inch of space to exist between you and your friends and allies.

It would be bad enough if it were just one state that Romney had in mind, but he claims to want to apply this rule to all “friends and allies.” Depending how flexible one wants to be in defining “friend,” that could include the vast majority of the world’s states today. Obviously, this doesn’t account for diverging interests between the U.S. and friendly and allied states, but it also ignores how often the respective interests of friendly and allied states clash with one another. Given Romney’s desire to perpetuate U.S. hegemony, it is even more absurd to think that the U.S. could have equally close relations (“not an inch of space”) with all of the many states with which the U.S. cooperates on security and military matters. Romney’s formulation is the rhetorical extreme to which his main complaint against administration foreign policy has been reduced. Since Romney claims that Obama’s failing is that he has “snubbed” or “abandoned” or “undermined” allies (a largely bogus claim), Romney will run to the opposite extreme of shoring them up no matter what they do and regardless of the issue.

Ed Kilgore commented on Romney’s debate statement (via Andrew), and here I think he gets things wrong:

Perhaps the refusal of contemporary conservatives to see allies anywhere else in the world—certainly not among those debt-ridden socialists of Europe—has made them hold Israel all the closer.

I suppose it depends on which conservatives Kilgore means, but most of the Republican presidential candidates have been falling all over themselves for months and in some cases years to lament how Obama has supposedly “sold out” a long list of friends and allies, and Victor Davis Hanson is one of several writers regularly repeating the litany in his columns (and occasionally adds some new allies that the U.S. doesn’t actually have). These folks not only see allies everywhere, but they can hardly turn around without seeing allies that the U.S. has let down. That list usually includes, but doesn’t have to be limited to, the following: Poland, Czech Republic, Georgia, Israel, India, Britain (remember Churchill’s bust?), Colombia, Taiwan, Egypt (if one objects to Mubarak’s downfall), Saudi Arabia and Bahrain (if one thinks Obama is appeasing Iran and was wrong to give up on Mubarak), and, last but not least, Santorum’s favorite, Honduras. It is hard to find an example from this list where the criticism over the last few years isn’t ridiculous and overwrought, and this list represents a significant part of Romney’s argument against administration foreign policy.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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