Marc Ambinder: Romney’s Theory of Provocative Weakness

This is pretty interesting, go ahead and read it, and then we’ll discuss a bit.

The sudden swing of American attention to North Africa has clarified the way Mitt Romney sees his country’s place in the world. Setting aside the merits of his campaign’s timing, because you can say just about anything if the timing is right, it is worth taking a brief tour through the Museum of Provocative Weakness. That phrase is a favorite of Ambassador John Bolton, who said on August 28 that Romney “doesn’t believe strength is provocative, he believes that American weakness is provocative.” It has been used many times by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. After the decision had been made to invade Iraq, Rumsfeld told ABC News that it didn’t really matter if a war enrages Arab populations in the Middle East. “All I can say is if history has taught anything, it’s that weakness is provocative. It entices people into doing things that they otherwise would not do.” When Rumsfeld was fired by President Bush three years later, he used his final turn at the podium to say that “it is not only clear that weakness is provocative, but [that] the perception of weakness on our part can be provocative.”

This phrase is the beating heart of Mitt Romney’s world view. You can see it in his books. You can hear it whenever he condemns President Obama for his “apology tour.” In practice, this means that whenever America has a choice about whether to demonstrate its will to power, it ought to exercise it. Anything else would telegraph weakness, a lack of resolve, that tips the balance of power in the world away from the good guys.

Where does this view come from? One common thread suggests it began with Leo Strauss’ cold, hard view of history; a Tory view of human nature where the smart men mold the minds of everyone else, where reality is constantly created. But a new book by Len Colodny and Tom Schachtman, The Forty Years War, traces this view to a much more likely instigator: Fritz Kraemer, a German refugee who became a long-time adviser to the Department of Defense and to Henry Kissinger, to Scoop Jackson, to Alexander Haig, to Richard Nixon.

Marc Ambinder: Romney’s Theory of Provocative Weakness

The diagnosis of Obama’s problems in foreign policy here is not too bad but, the analysis of what Romney says he believes is horrendous.

The idea of using military force every time every where is a strawman, nobody that I’m aware of has ever advocated anything like that.

What many of us do believe is that international relations is rather like a playground. If you run around apologising for stuff you didn’t do and for giving other kids your lunch money and other such sniveling-self defeating acts, you are going to get bullied, because no one is going to have any respect for you. How do you stop bullying when you can’t run to teacher? You man up and take care of business. You don’t worry about who you’re offending, you do what you have to do. Do you really think those four American in Benghazi would be the honored dead if anybody in Libya had thought there was a chance that the Americans would take Benghazi apart? Nuff said.

Do you have to use that ‘Big Stick’ every time? Of course not, after one or two times, everybody will be so scared you might, they won’t screw with you anymore. You remember the story about the riot in Texas back in the day? They sent one Ranger to quell it, why? because there was only one riot.

If you’re the United States the way you keep the peace is this. Those big gray ships are all over the world, the flyboys can reach anywhere in a matter of hours, and the Big Green Machine is on the boats, if you wish us harm you can never tell when your sky will light up like the fourth of July.

If Benghazi today looked like Dresden circa 1945, do you think anybody would be jeering at the US or begging  to tell us how they love us and want our dollars.

That’s how peace is kept, when we kowtow to the world we get the situation we’re in now.

A few notes on the situation

  • We have an Ambassador tortured, raped, and killed
  • Egypt has by definition committed an act  of war against the United States
  • The Embassy in Beirut reportedly has burned their secret documents
  • The defense of American property can not be assigned to others, it is the responsibility of the United States government
  • The French are closing 20 embassies in the Middle East because of some cartoons
  • The Taliban (or whoever) is attacking NATO troops in AFPAK in a more organized and powerful manner all the time
  • Iran is getting closer and closer to an atomic weapon
  • and, not least, I saw a report today that Israel is mobilizing for war.

This is what Obama’s provocative weakness in foreign policy has gotten us. I think know we can do better. We had better.


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12 Responses to Marc Ambinder: Romney’s Theory of Provocative Weakness

  1. Freedom, by the way says:

    I agree the assessment of Obama’s weak face to the problems of the world is right on. Libya bombing? He proudly stated that the US was “leading from behind”. OSB–really didn’t have a choice on that, did he? We had the world’s biggest boogeyman in the cross-hairs, you gotta take him out. But Romney as a war monger? Nothing I have read or seen would lead me to believe that.


    • Me either, Freedom, unless I suppose, your definition of war monger consists of standing like a man instead of running away


  2. In dealing with the countries in the Middle East we would do well to imitate Israel who knows how to gain respect, albeit inflame rhetoric. They hit them 10 times as hard as they are hit. We presently seem to want to garner nice words and be totally disrespected by these nations. More attacks will surely come and there will be no peace without forceful retalliation that leaves a permanent mark on their memories.


    • That’s what anybody with commonsense says, many of these are overeducated poltroons and can’t see it.


      • Another instance of the blind leading the blind.


        • Well, it IS hard to see with your cranium inserted into your rectum after all.


        • I guess being adept in Yoga is a prerequisite for admission to the Ivy League schools these days.


        • I think so.


  3. JessicaHof says:

    The Romans of old used to say that those who wished to secure peace should be prepared for war – seems as apt now as back then.


    • It is, but it assumes a willingness on the part of the government to defend its people which we seem to be lacking at present. All the power in the world is useless without the willingness to swat a fly


      • JessicaHof says:

        Indeed – and since the first duty of any State is to protect its people, then O fails at the first base.


        • Strike three, you’re out, and the catcher caught the ball, too, in our idiom. Empty suit in an empty chair.


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