In light of last week’s assassination of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and the murder of three other Americans, coupled with the spread of anti-American sentiment and attacks across the Middle East, foreign policy has begun to overshadow economic policy in the 2012 presidential election.
The Middle East embassy attacks also highlight a serious need for American foreign policy to change directions.
The 21st century cannot be defined by a decline of U.S. global influence and increase of foreign policy inconsistency. Foreign policy must be reimagined to allow for the re-emergence of a stronger America. To accomplish this, the nation cannot continue along the path set by the Obama administration. The next president of the United States must take foreign policy in a new, consistent direction to firmly place America in its rightful position as a world leader.
In a speech last October at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney asserted that this century must be defined as the “American Century.”
“America must lead the world, or someone else will,” Romney said. “Without American leadership, without clarity of American purpose and resolve, the world becomes a far more dangerous place, and liberty and prosperity would surely be among the first casualties.”
After President Barack Obama assumed office in 2009, one of his first major foreign policy speeches was in Cairo, Egypt, during which he pledged to resolve conflicts between Muslims and the United States. More than three years later, it is apparent that Obama has failed to mend relationships with the Middle East and tension in the region has escalated to new fatal levels.
The next president needs to implement a new foreign policy in the Middle East that offers room for compromise but asserts the U.S. objectives in the region. This approach was emphasized by former President Ronald Reagan during his 1980 presidential campaign as “Peace Through Strength.”
But the United States, especially during the Arab Spring, has shown grave inconsistencies in foreign policy. The Obama administration has been stagnant in its reaction to uprisings in the Middle East and intervening during situations in which U.S. interests are at serious risk.
For example, the Obama administration provided aerial support in Libya and utilized extreme diplomatic pressure in Egypt, but it has taken no effective steps to end the violence in Syria, which has claimed the lives of nearly 25,000 Syrians.
Inconsistencies in U.S. foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, demonstrate the current administration’s weaknesses and provide opportunities for extremists to capitalize on these shortcomings. This consequently leads to the anti-American sentiment currently growing and spreading across the world. We do not need more of the same. We need to go in a new direction that will break with a past image and shape a new, different and better future.
Within his first 100 days in office, Romney has promised to accomplish eight foreign policy actions, from beginning discussions with Israel about increasing military “coordination and assistance” to conducting an internal review of the War in Afghanistan to determine what the nation’s best next step is.
Romney also plans to assign an official to oversee all U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, a position that does not currently exist in the U.S. State Department. This addition of this position will create continuity in U.S. foreign policy abroad and help to eliminate vulnerability to attacks.
The United States cannot afford to take a passive approach to foreign policy. The next president needs to actively re-strengthen U.S. foreign policy so that this country remains the dominant player in the world’s political and economic spheres, so that this century becomes indisputably the American Century.
David Lowenstein is a junior majoring in international relations global business. Point/Counterpoint runs Fridays.