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Peace will only come through strength

Tray Smith

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After our Libyan ambassador was killed in a terrorist attack on Sept. 11 of this year, U.S. officials blamed a YouTube video for inciting the anti-American violence that led to his death. It took two weeks for the Obama administration to admit what others, including the leader of the Libyan parliament, had already said.

The ambassador, Chris Stevens, wasn’t killed by a spontaneous mob outraged over a video clip. He was killed by a coordinated terrorist strike.

The Obama administration has consistently downplayed the threats against the United States. Maybe they don’t want unflattering headlines to undermine their story that Osama bin Laden is dead and al-Qaeda is barely functioning. Maybe they are just naïve.

Regardless, the result of their foreign policy is clear: Syria is in the middle of a bloody civil war that has killed over 30,000 Syrians, the Arab Spring has given rise to political movements unfriendly toward the United States, and Iran is four years closer to a nuclear weapon.

For many Americans, rising instability in the Middle East may seem less threatening now that our troops are safely out of Iraq and heading out of Afghanistan. Whatever the failures of Obama’s foreign policy, at least we aren’t opening up any new wars in any other countries.

As Mitt Romney has asserted time and again though, we don’t have to launch new wars to lead. The choice isn’t between the foreign policy we’ve had in the past and the foreign policy we have now; in this election, we must choose which foreign policy we want for the next four years.

The wars we waged after 9/11 are winding down or have ended, but we have important work to do if we hope to build strong relationships with newly formed governments throughout the Middle East.

Fortunately, history offers plenty of examples for how American influence can be used to promote lasting peace and stability. After World War II, the U.S. didn’t leave Europe or Japan but supported the people of both as they sought to rebuild their countries and form institutions that promote peace. After the end of the Cold War, U.S. troops responded to restore peace in Eastern Europe. U.S. troops have also been stationed along the border between North and South Korea throughout the last 60 years, helping prevent another outbreak of war on that peninsula.

The result has been that South Korea, Japan and our European allies have developed some of the most advanced economies in the world, are at peace with one another and are international partners of the United States.

U.S. leadership played a critical role in building and maintaining this world order, and we need a president who understands the role U.S. leadership must play now.

President Obama doesn’t. One of his first major foreign policy decisions cancelled U.S. missile defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic, two Eastern European allies who were bravely working with the U.S. on those installations.

These defensive weapons were intended only to shoot down hostile nuclear weapons – like Iran’s, if they get a bomb – but President Obama decided to nix the project because of Russian concerns.

The president has successfully deployed drone strikes to kill terrorist targets, while limiting the techniques our intelligence professionals can use to interrogate the targets they capture. He is willing to kill suspects but unwilling to capture and interrogate them, standing opposed to methods that can be criticized as “torture.” The result is a foreign policy that is both more brutal and less effective at intercepting information that could save American lives.

Mitt Romney offers a better path. He will strongly assert American interests in the world while making sure our military is fully funded and prepared. He knows the strongest military is one we never have to use, and the stronger the military is, the less likely we are to use it. American strength deters hostile aggressors.

President Obama plans to cut almost half a trillion dollars from defense spending over the next decade and has refused to propose a way to avoid sequestration, a budgetary mechanism that will cut another half trillion. At a time of rising instability worldwide, threatening to double the cuts our military has already been asked to absorb sends a weak signal to our adversaries.

Mitt Romney has also promised to get serious about negotiating trade deals and policing trading infractions. His experience as a businessman and as the former CEO of the Winter Olympics will serve him well in that effort, which, as the global economy becomes more interdependent, will be increasingly important to American foreign policy.

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Peace will only come through strength