It isn’t so much that former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was a prophet. Just that he had read a book or two.
Throughout the course of the campaign, the turnaround artist and blue state Republican issued some dire but necessary warnings to the American public about how the geopolitical environment was changing for the worse.
In 2012, Romney called it “troubling” and “alarming” that Barack Obama had essentially appeased the Russian bear by offering concessions like the withdrawal of interceptor missile and radar installations in Eastern Europe without reciprocity from Moscow. He said that Russia’s actions have made that nation “without question, our number one geopolitical foe.”
This prompted a flood of scorn and mockery from a raft of self-assured critics. But by 2014, after Russia had frustrated America’s ambition to contain the Syrian civil war, invaded neighboring Ukraine, and unilaterally annexed a portion of that nation’s territory into Russia proper, nearly all of Romney’s self-respecting critics were forced to concede that he had a point.
In that campaign and earlier, Romney warned that the Islamist goal was the establishment of a pan-Islamic caliphate state which would counter the West and add a grave new military dimension to the ideological struggle against jihadism.
“It’s this century’s nightmare, jihadism – violent, radical Islamic fundamentalism,” Romney said in 2007. “Their goal is to unite the world under a single jihadist caliphate.”
“This is about Shia and Sunni. This is about Hezbollah and Hamas and Al Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood,” he reiterated in a 2008 presidential debate. “This is a worldwide jihadist effort to try and cause the collapse of all moderate Islamic governments and replace them with a caliphate.”
These comments were dug up by Obama supporters in 2012 to suggest that Romney had a penchant for conflating “all Muslims” with fundamentalists and would, as president, send Americans to “fight [the] whole Muslim world.”
Undeterred, Romney warned America during a presidential debate in October that, while the U.S. could not approach every Islamic extremist threat militarily, the threat would have to be confronted.
But we can’t kill our way out of this mess. We’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the — the world of Islam and other parts of the world, reject this radical violent extremism, which is — it’s certainly not on the run… It’s certainly not hiding. This is a group that is now involved in 10 or 12 countries, and it presents an enormous threat to our friends, to the world, to America, long term, and we must have a comprehensive strategy to help reject this kind of extremism.
American voters preferred a more comforting fiction manufactured by Barack Obama and his backers which promised that the threat of Islamic fundamentalism had receded. They were wrong, and the establishment of the Islamic State brought with it a wealth of unimaginable new horrors.
Romney is having a bit of a moment. Some have speculated that all this attention may lead the former Bay State governor to suspect he should mount a third run at the White House. Well, judging from an op-ed Romney published in Thursday’s Washington Post, he may be thinking about it. Or, at the very least, he does not want to tamp down any speculation just yet.
“Several arguments are advanced to justify the decimation of our defense,” Romney wrote of the shrinking of the U.S. military occurring at the same time as national security threats proliferate. “All of them are wrong.”
It is said that the first rule of wing-walking is to not let go with one hand until the other hand has a firm grip. So, too, before we jettison our reliance on U.S. strength, there must be something effective in its place — if such a thing is even possible. Further, the appeal to “common humanity” as the foundation of this new world order ignores the reality that humanity is far from common in values and views. Humanity may commonly agree that there is evil, but what one people calls evil another calls good.
There are those who claim that a multipolar world is preferable to one led by a strong United States. Were these other poles nations such as Australia, Canada, France and Britain, I might concur. But with emerging poles being China, Russia and Iran, the world would not see peace; it would see bullying, invasion and regional wars. And ultimately, one would seek to conquer the others, unleashing world war.
Some argue that the United States should simply withdraw its military strength from the world — get out of the Middle East, accept nuclear weapons in Iran and elsewhere, let China and Russia have their way with their neighbors and watch from the sidelines as jihadists storm on two or three continents. Do this, they contend, and the United States would be left alone.
That reference to a “multipolar world” is evidence that Romney has perused a few books on international relations theory, too. And that may be his most terrifying prophecy yet. The post-Cold War conflicts in which the United States has engaged have been perfectly asymmetrical. The return of multipolarity would result in the rise of spheres of influence, increase the chances for miscalculation, and likely result in symmetrical great power warfare of a kind the world has not seen since 1945.
The usual cast of characters will emerge to scoff and mock, too. It’s all they have left.