Greg Scoblete finds another untrue statement in Romney’s foreign policy speech from last week. Romney said:
If America is the undisputed leader of the world, it reduces our need to police a more chaotic world.
If America acts in the manner described by Romney – which is a role it has followed arguably since 1990 – it means a constant resort to policing the world by force. Since the later half of the Cold War and its aftermath, when American power was at its apex, when America was “indisputably” the leader of the world, the pace of American military interventions and conflicts soared.
Romney is trying to have things both ways with this line. On the one hand, the U.S. must “lead” the world and back this up with military supremacy, and an integral part of this “leadership” is the regular use or threat of military force in response to various crises, but this will somehow make it less likely that the U.S. will have to “police” other parts of the world. In short, Romney insists that America must act as a heavily-armed global sheriff to avoid being the world’s policeman. This is an attempt to appeal to pride in superpower status at the same time that it deliberately minimizes the hyper-activist role Romney wants the U.S. to play. The insistence on being the “undisputed leader of the world” means that the U.S. will continue shouldering the burden for the defense of dependent allies that could provide for their own defense, which suggests that Romney has no interest in increased burden-sharing. Romney’s idea of recreating the transitory unipolar moment will not produce the result that he says it will, and it is an attempt to return to a point in the past that cannot be recovered.
References to a “more chaotic world” comes up in Romney’s speech at a couple different points. The first time he mentions this, he is describing the present and contrasting it with the Cold War:
Today, our world is far more chaotic. We still face grave threats, but they come not from one country, or one group, or one ideology. The world is unfortunately not so defined [bold mine-DL]. What America and our allies are facing is a series of threatening forces, ones that overlap and reinforce each other.
We can hear a trace of nostalgic regret that the world no longer appears to be defined by a simple bipolar division. Even though current threats are far less grave and dangerous than those that the U.S. and our allies faced during the Cold War (and some of the “threatening forces” aren’t very threatening at all), the supposed greater diversity and complexity of the world make things “more chaotic.” Thus Romney and his team conclude that the world is “more chaotic” despite the fact that the world is relatively more orderly and peaceful than it was before the end of the Cold War. International conflicts are relatively rare today, and the “policing” undertaken by the U.S. and our allies involves intervening in the internal affairs of other states. If the U.S. tries to remain the “undisputed leader of the world,” that will necessarily involve the U.S. in more crises and require much more “policing” of the world.
Update: On a related note, David Bosco picks up on some remarks by the Indian national security adviser, Shiv Shankar Menon, who describes international affairs as being close to a state of “primeval anarchy.” What does he mean by this? He said:
[W]e seem to be entering a phase of increasing militarization of international relations. Look at recent developments in the Middle East, where conventional air power, covert and Special Forces, and internet social media have been used in new tactical combinations with old fashioned propaganda and international institutions to change regimes and create political outcomes…
…We live in a time where international law remains underdeveloped, international governance is non-existent or weak, and international society is fundamentally anarchic. As a result the role of force in international relations has been magnified.
By “recent developments,” Menon is referring for the most part to the intervention in Libya. The “primeval anarchy” that this Indian official perceives is U.S. “leadership” engaged in the enforcement of the “rules-based order” that it ostensibly promotes. If the world appears “more chaotic” to Mr. Menon, it is because the U.S. and its allies are creating disorder through their “policing.”