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Straining at Gnats



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The American Conservative has published a symposium by its various writers on how they’ll vote Tuesday. Jim Pinkerton’s the most enthusiastic Romney supporter, while others are more tepid. Several support Libertarian Gary Johnson or Virgil Goode of the Constitution party. One plans to write in Rand Paul, and some aren’t voting at all. (Curiously, Pat Buchanan’s not among the writers, but he has endorsed Romney.)

Though I personally (not the Center for Immigration Studies) enthusiastically support Romney and have volunteered at the local level for door-knocking and phone-calling, I understand those other choices. What I don’t get is a vote for Obama, the choice of Andrew Bacevich, Scott McConnell, Leon Hadar, Noah Millman, and a couple others. Most of the symposium’s Obama supporters cited foreign policy as their chief concern, namely that, as Hadar writes, “I am worried that U.S. foreign policy under a Romney presidency would be replica of W.’s. [sic]“

I’m worried about that too, having made no secret around here of my foreign-policy minimalism. But there are two reasons this is a mistake. The first, and less important, one is that Romney really doesn’t cares that much about foreign policy and isn’t likely to get swept up in Wilsonian silliness that ending tyranny in our world is an urgent requirement of our nation’s security. Larison points to a Dan Drezner post making that point:

Every conversation with every Romney advisor confirms the same thing:  this is not a guy who has engaged deeply in international affairs.  He was perfectly happy to go all neocon-y in the primary season to appeal to his base, and then tack back to the center in the general election to appeal to war-weary independents.  He’s not doing this because he’s dishonest; he’s doing this because he doesn’t care.  His choice of foreign policy neophyte Paul Ryan as his VP pick confirms this as well:  Romney/Ryan has the least foreign policy experience of any GOP ticket in at least sixty years.

Of course, Romney’s lack of interest in foreign policy could mean he’d be led by the nose by interventionist advisors, but given the staggering costs of our past adventures, I just don’t see that happening. That doesn’t mean he won’t be forced to make foreign-policy decisions, just that new crusades are not on tap.

But even if it did happen, even if Romney really were an empire man rather than a peace-through-strength conservative, it still wouldn’t justify voting for Obama. Great nations decay from the inside out, and can survive bad foreign policy for a long time if they are sound internally. Ann Coulter wrote last year:

In the upcoming presidential election, two issues are more important than any others: repealing Obamacare and halting illegal immigration. If we fail at either one, the country will be changed permanently.

Taxes can be raised and lowered. Regulations can be removed (though they rarely are). Attorneys general and Cabinet members can be fired. Laws can be repealed. Even Supreme Court justices eventually die.

But capitulate on illegal immigration, and the entire country will have the electorate of California. There will be no turning back.

Similarly, if Obamacare isn’t repealed in the next few years, it never will be.

I would add to Coulter’s list that unnecessary wars can be ended, outdated alliances untangled, bases closed, troops brought home. But no foreign policy, of whatever stripe, can reverse internal decline. For some people, including myself, foreign policy can be much more interesting than the details of the tax code or health policy. But with a few big exceptions (say, Germany’s decision to invade Poland), foreign policy doesn’t determine the course of great nations. Though it’s cold comfort to the families of soldiers sacrificed to stupid policies — like invading Mali, if we end up doing that — in the long run, such thing just aren’t as important to the fate of our country as the decisions we make about our internal arrangements.

And, while replacing Obama with Romney is not sufficient to reverse our internal decline, it is necessary. Four more years of Obama — now untethered from concerns about reelection — would do irreparable damage to the nation, whatever his foreign policies.

So I offer my friends on the heterodox, non-establishment right Drew Klavan’s advice about the election: “Shut The Hell Up and Vote for Romney.”



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