American power abroad is in decline because President Barack Obama’s policies are raising doubts around the world about the country’s continued willingness to lead the free world.
That was the message this week from Republican speakers and commentators at the party’s National Convention in Tampa, Florida.
While the country’s economic woes topped the agenda of the four-day gathering that formally nominated Mitt Romney as the party’s presidential candidate, foreign policy was not completely absent from the proceedings and the rhetoric. The critique of the incumbent Democratic president’s policies garnered brief mentions in the speeches of Paul Ryan and Condoleezza Rice, and considerably more than a mention in the speech of 2008 Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain.
“Instead of managing American decline, leaving allies to doubt us and adversaries to test us,” as the Obama administration has done, “we will act in the conviction that the United States is still the greatest force for peace and liberty that this world has ever known,” vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said to eager applause Wednesday night.
“Dictators in Iran and Syria butcher their people and threaten regional security, Russia and China prevent a response, and everyone asks, ‘Where does America stand?’” declared former Bush Jr. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, also Wednesday.
“You see, when friends or foes alike don’t know the answer to that question, unambiguously and clearly, the world is likely to be a more dangerous and chaotic place,” she said, adding that “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan understand this reality.
“From Israel to Colombia, from Poland to the Philippines, our allies and friends have to know that we will be reliable and consistent and determined,” Rice told the delegates.
John McCain used much of his speech to argue “what Mitt Romney knows, and what we know – that our success at home also depends on our leadership in the world.
“We are now being tested by an array of threats that are more complex, more numerous and just as deadly as any I can recall in my lifetime,” said the decorated Vietnam veteran, father of serving US soldiers, and scion to Navy admirals.
He then echoed Ryan’s “decline” comment, saying, “We can choose to follow a declining path, toward a future that is dimmer and more dangerous than our past, or we can choose to reform our failing government, revitalize our ailing economy and renew the foundations of our power and leadership in the world.
“Unfortunately, for four years, we’ve drifted away from our proudest traditions of global leadership – traditions that are truly bipartisan…. We can’t afford to cause our friends and allies – from Latin America to Asia, Europe to the Middle East, and especially in Israel, a nation under existential threat – to doubt America’s leadership.
“We can’t afford to give governments in Russia and China a veto over how we defend our interests and the progress of our values in the world.”
Both Rice and McCain referenced Obama’s alleged “leading from behind” leadership style, a phrase attributed by the New Yorker to an anonymous administration official discussing Obama’s policies in Libya that has earned the status of an epithet in conservative circles.