Tag Archives: Rick Santorum

Foreign Policy Knows No Party

If citizens want to have an opinion on how American foreign policy should be conducted, they may sadly be forced to think for themselves for the foreseeable future.

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Democrats and Republicans

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My European friends typically portray Republican foreign policy as monolithic. Which is to say, nasty. This is baffling, as there is little consensus on foreign policy in either party beyond razing any Olympic uniforms made in China, and wholly and unquestionably doing whatever AIPAC wants.

There are perhaps one or two blurry foreign policy differences between the major parties. The Democrats are arguably less hawkish, with the notable exception of when it comes to doing things like voting on whether or not to bomb other countries. In these rare instances (invading Iraq, for instance) they’re surprisingly gung-ho.

To their credit, Democratic lawmakers did not vote in favor of the Libyan military intervention of 2011. However this is largely because President Obama neglected to ask Congress’s permission to do so.

While the Republican Party still sports an alarming amount of Neocons eager to engage in nation building (usually by bombing the nations they intend to build), it’s unfair to describe the GOP as the party of war. In truth the GOP has only one commonality: a fear of commitment. Isolationist, Neoconservative, Realist and whatever exactly Governor Romney is, Republicans are the party hesitant to confirm “relationship status” with other countries on Facebook.

Let’s look at three recent prominent contenders for the Republican presidential nomination:

First, Rick Santorum, whose hypothetical White House policy briefings would involve several men (note: men) sitting around in sweater vests discussing “Operation Glass Parking Lot.” Santorum appeared to be in such a hurry to catapult projectiles at Tehran that, endowed with the presidency, he would probably order NASA to build a time machine through which to dispatch F16’s to carpet bomb the Ayatollah last month. After leveling the Parchin, Bidganeh and Qom military complexes, they would circle back to the 1950’s to refuel their sweatervest reserves and return to now.

There could be no greater contrast than Ron Paul, a staunch non-interventionist who would ideally like America to transition from the world’s only remaining super power to a sort of 320-million person Switzerland. Defend the shores, deliver the mail. Stop.

The only commonality between Rick Santorum and Ron Paul is that both find the notion of any treaty compelling America to legally bind itself to the consensus of other nations utterly distasteful. Differences notwithstanding, monks and playboys are nonetheless bachelors.

As it stands, the Republican contender for the presidency is Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney’s foreign policy plan is more or less identical to President Obama’s, only with more aggressive adverbs.

It’s possible he’ll start a trade war with China by labeling them as currency manipulators. In his book No Apology, he was of the opinion that “protectionism stifles productivity,” which indicates a reluctance to start a trade war. More than likely, he would carry on the same Free Trade policies enacted by Obama, many of which started during the Bush administration.

The only discernible difference between the diplomatic and economic measures which President Obama has employed to halt the Iranian nuclear program and Romney’s counter plan is his more liberal use of exclamation marks. He would also support covertly support dissidents and increase the US Naval presence in the Straight of Hormuz. Primarily, however, he would rely upon economic sanctions and diplomacy, reserving military intervention in the event that soft power fails. Just like Obama.

What are we to make of all this? The first is that Americans don’t particularly care about foreign policy. If they did, Jon Hunstman would be orchestrating it right now.

The second lesson is that, while Republicans and Democrats might neatly organize themselves into tug-of-war teams on issues like abortion, healthcare and firearm regulation, there is no actual partisan American foreign policy agenda.

If citizens want to have an opinion on how America should conduct itself abroad, they may sadly be forced to think for themselves for the foreseeable future.

US Presidential Election Roundup: 05/8 – 11/8

This week’s roundup of the US presidential elections…

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Romney attacks Obama over military voting [The Hill] Mitt Romney has criticised the Obama campaign for attempting to prevent a law that would extend the early voting period for military personnel.

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Obama policies under fire [Huffington Post] Mitt Romney has accused President Obama of ‘an extraordinary series of policy failures’ in the wake of a recent report on jobs.

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‘Apologies are in the air’ [Washington Post] The Washington Post rounds up a series of apologies from both the Obama and the Romney campaigns from the past two weeks.

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Romney supports Senate contender [CNN] Mitt Romney has campaigned in Indiana alongside Republican candidate for Senate Richard Mourdock.

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Obama ad attacks Romney on Planned Parenthood [Political Wire] A new campaign ad has criticised Mitt Romney’s stance on contraception and Planned Parenthood funding.

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Wealthy will ‘do just fine’ says Romney [CBS] Mitt Romney has said that the wealthiest Americans will ‘do just fine’ regardless of the outcome of the presidential election.

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Reid branded ‘liar’ by Republicans [The Guardian] The majority leader of the Senate Harry Reid has been accused of lying after claiming that Romney paid no taxes for ten years.

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Republican convention speakers announced [Huffington Post] The Republican National Committee has confirmed that Senator John McCain and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be among the speakers at the Republican National Convention.

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July sees Romney raise over $100 million [ABC] The Romney campaign raised $101 million in July, it was announced this week.

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Obama predicted to exceed fundraising record [Politico] Although behind his Republican opponent, President Obama is expected to surpass the $750 million raised by his first election campaign.

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Jewish organisation demands Romney apology [The Hill] Jewish Voice for Peace has called on Mitt Romney to apologise to the Palestinians after comments made by the Republican frontrunner in Jerusalem last week.

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More convention speakers revealed [Huffington Post] Rick Santorum and Ron Paul will be among those joining John McCain and Condoleezza Rice as speakers at the Republican National Convention.

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Romney challenges Reid over tax accusation [Fox News] Mitt Romney has requested that Senate leader Harry Reid reveals the source behind his claims about the Republican contender’s tax affairs.

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‘Obamaloney’ [CNN] President Obama’s criticism of Mitt Romney’s tax policies as being ‘Robin Hood in reverse’ has been described as ‘Obamaloney’ by the Republican presidential hopeful.

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Republicans label Obama ad ‘dishonest’ [Telegraph] Republicans have criticised a campaign ad from the Priorities USA Action Super PAC for suggesting that Mitt Romney and Bain Capital may have been responsible for the death of a former employee.

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Obama maintains Colorado lead [Politico] A new poll has found that President Obama’s lead over Mitt Romney in the battleground state of Colorado has remained at around 49% to 43%.

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Obama appeals to women in Colorado [Politico] President Obama has spoken about the benefits of his healthcare reforms for women during a campaign trip to Colorado.

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Spokesperson promotes Romney health law [CNN] The Romney campaign has spoken about the successes of the Massachusetts healthcare law passed by the Republican contender.

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Obama waging ‘war on religion’ says Romney ad [CBS] A new campaign ad from the Romney campaign has accused President Obama of threatening religious freedom.

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Polls show Obama lead [Political Wire] A poll for CNN shows that President Obama is seven points ahead of his Republican rival, while a Fox News poll gives Obama a nine point lead.

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Democratic National Convention to feature Republicans [Politico] Planning papers for the Democratic National Convention have revealed that the event will feature Republican speakers.

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Romney leading in Iowa poll [Politico] A Rasmussen poll gives Romney a two point lead over President Obama.

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Paul Ryan to be named VP [Reuters] Congressman Paul Ryan is expected to be announced as Mitt Romney’s running mate.

Compiled by Patrick McGhee.

Extreme Anti-Abortionists: An Unwelcome Import

Anti-abortionist extremists are not backed by public opinion.

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[dropcap]J[/dropcap]ustin Bieber is the latest high profile figure in the US to voice his disapproval of abortion, even if a woman has been raped (“everything hapapens for a reason”, he told Rolling Stone). He follows hot on the heels of failed contender for the Republican nomination for President, Rick Santorum, who described conception from rape as a “gift”.

Of course Santorum is not alone in the Republican camp, within which candidates are often found to be jostling for position on social issues to satisfy their sizable socially conservative electoral base. The US also has a reputation as the country with the most extreme, sometimes violent, anti-abortionists, with 41 bombings and 173 arsons of abortion providers in the US and Canada since 1977. Eight people have been killed, and a further 17 people have had death threats.

The so-called ‘pro-life’ brigade – a tag that seems somewhat misplaced given their treatment of pregnant women and others, so let’s call them anti-abortionists – have demonstrated an extreme fervour. In the UK their activities have tended to be limited to periodic pickets and protests. Whilst there is no apparent threat of the sort of violence perpetrated in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, there are worrying indications that anti-abortionists are upping the ante in the UK.

For the 40 days of Lent, anti-abortionists protested to pregnant women outside the central London clinic of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), leaving women feeling humiliated, embarrassed, harassed, and even violated, reports attribute to BPAS. Similar protests have been taking place in Brighton. Pickets of abortion clinics by evangelicals are not new, but there appears to be a momentum behind the latest rash of protests, and when allied to other militant tactics aimed at women, paint a concerning picture.

BPAS came under attack from a hacker who stole the personal details of 10,000 women from the confidential BPAS database, and threatened to make those names public. The judge who sentenced the hacker to 32 months in prison warned of “terrible consequences” had that threat been carried out. The hacker defaced the BPAS website with anti-abortion slogans, claiming to be part of the hacking group Anonymous.

Undoubtedly there are personal implications for the women concerned. Targeting pregnant women with graphic images of foetuses and preying on vulnerability seems about the most anti-life thing you can do, barring violence. But beyond the militant protests, there are other signs that anti-abortionists are influencing public debate and policy in a way that has profoundly political, as well as personal, implications. The government has indicated that it will press ahead with plans to allow anti-abortionists to counsel pregnant women on the NHS, despite the collapse of the backbench proposal in the House of Commons, a move which has been denounced by the shadow public health minister. The decision to exclude some long-standing providers like BPAS from the government’s advisory group on sexual health and include anti-abortionists was seen as a significant departure from the status quo and created a furore last year.

Darinka Aleksic of Abortion Rights told me that the “moral equivalence made by the media in many cases between the pro and anti-choice side is very damaging: we’re seen as two opposing sides of the same coin with the truth somewhere in between,” which is misleading. Pro-choice advocates are interested in ensuring that whether a woman decides to continue with a pregnancy or not, she has the ability, information and services to allow her to make a free choice. Aleksic says “Pro-choice advocates aren’t found outside maternity hospitals asking women if they had considered termination as an alternative to giving birth, whereas anti-choice activists are increasingly willing to approach women outside abortion clinics.”

I have been in favour of a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body for as long as I can remember. I am not alone in that view – between 70 and 83 per cent of the British public are reported to support a woman’s right to choose. The current British law allowing women the right to choose how to proceed with a pregnancy is well-supported by the weight of scientific evidence and by the medical establishment.

These anti-abortionist extremists are not backed by the public, experts or mainstream opinion for their reactionary and evangelic beliefs, much less for their bullying and intimidating tactics. Any politician tempted to pander to these obscure views should be very wary, and the media can avoid being their co-pilots in tacitly legitimising their views by leaving them in the “extremists” box where they belong.

US Election: The Race Is On

As the presidential election race solidifies into a direct confrontation between Romney and Obama, Republican foreign policy attacks on the president are likely to intensify.

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he announcement earlier this week that Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum would be suspending his campaign looks to have established what many thought was already the case – the race for the US presidency will be between former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and current president Barack Obama. This was most vociferously confirmed by the Obama campaign’s manager Jim Messina, who focused on Romney in a statement responding to Santorum’s departure: ‘It’s no surprise that Mitt Romney finally was able to grind down his opponents under an avalanche of negative ads. But neither he nor his special interest allies will be able to buy the presidency with their negative attacks. The more the American people see of Mitt Romney, the less they like him.’

In addition to this apparently growing tension, the changing nature of the presidential race has also heightened interest in public perceptions of the Romney campaign and the Obama administration. A new poll conducted by Washington Post and ABC News between the 5th and the 8th April, has found that 51% of registered voters would vote for Obama, compared with 44% for Romney, were the election ‘being held today’. Surveying a range of political issues, the poll found Obama to be leading in most areas but, as an accompanying Washington Post article highlighted, lagging behind on the crucial domestic issues of handling the economy and the federal budget deficit.

Despite these dips, President Obama leads the poll on the majority of the issues, including both foreign policy areas. On the issue of handling international affairs, 53% of respondents supported Obama, compared with 36% supporting Romney. On the question of handling terrorism, Obama scored 47%, compared with Romney’s 40%. The Obama administration has exhibited strength in these areas, and many pointing to the assassination of Osama bin Laden and other tactical military offensives against al-Qaeda, as well as increasing economic sanctions against Iran.

However, it appears that the Romney campaign is eager to weaken Obama’s foreign policy lead, pointing to the US relationship with Russia, a lack of assertiveness in Libya and cuts to the military as evidence of the president’s weakness. In addition, a recent Reuters article quotes Richard Williamson, a Romney campaign adviser, as saying: ‘Governor Romney believes in American exceptionalism, that we are great not just because of our military and economic power but also because of our values. The current president does not.’ This criticism has been reiterated throughout Romney’s campaign thus far, reinforcing his persistent attempt to revive a Reagan-style foreign policy.

Most recently, the attempt by North Korea to launch a long-range rocket has prompted further attacks upon the Obama administration. Responding to the launch, which ultimately failed to propel the rocket out of the Earth’s atmosphere, Romney said: ‘Instead of approaching Pyongyang from a position of strength, President Obama sought to appease the regime with a food-aid deal that proved to be as naive as it was short-lived.’ Romney’s website outlines a characteristically more aggressive alternative to the Obama administration’s stance, stating that ‘Mitt will work with allies to institute harsher sanctions on North Korea, such as cracking down on financial institutions that service the North Korean regime and sanctioning companies that conduct commercial shipping in and out of North Korea.’

This latest criticism indicates what has been and will continue to be an attempt on behalf of the Romney campaign to expose what it perceives as weaknesses in the Obama administration’s foreign policy. As the presidential race solidifies into a direct confrontation between Romney and Obama, Republican foreign policy attacks on the president are likely to intensify.

Equality In The US Army: Santorum Has It All Wrong

One wonders if Mr. Santorum is actively inhibiting this natural instinct to protect women when he is formulating his stances on policies regarding our reproductive health.

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In the wake of the Pentagon’s announcement of a loosening of restrictions for female service-members last week, we were treated to Rick Santorum’s considered opinions on these matters.  Last week CNN asked him about his support for measures that might eventually allow women to serve in all combat positions. It wasn’t surprising that he opposed the idea, voicing his reticence to John King.

I do have concerns about women in front-line combat, I think that could be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission, because of other types of emotions that are involved. It already happens, of course, with the camaraderie of men in combat, but I think it would be even more unique if women were in combat, and I think that’s probably not in the best interest of men, women or the mission”

He called this behavior the “natural instinct to protect someone that’s a female.”  One wonders if Mr. Santorum is actively inhibiting this natural instinct to protect women when he is formulating his stances on policies regarding our reproductive health.

Santorum is arguing that when women are present on the battlefield it activates a male urge to engage in risky behavior in order protect them. This argument is a sneaky ploy; it’s the “it’s not about the women, it’s about the men” claim. At least, that’s what it is superficially. This argument side-steps trying to respond to the incredibly convincing evidence that women have proven their battlefield mettle repeatedly and instead goes for an assertion about male nature and military culture that embeds itself in social assumptions about gender not necessarily factual evidence.

Rick Santorum’s distaste for a mixing of the genders in combat is part of the broader “unit cohesion” argument, which has been similarly leveraged against the open service of lesbians and gays in the military. This is the sister argument to the original “men’s emotions will get the better of them” ploy. It says that the presence of women will serve as a distraction and weaken in the unit’s ability to carry out it’s mission and to function effectively as a whole. This argument is also a fear argument: the fear that women will destroy the sanctity of the masculine environment; that they will endanger their comrades perhaps by being overcome by their female emotions in a time of high stress. It is the presumption that some things are for men alone and that, for reasons that range from cultural to physical, women are simply incompatible with real combat. It is really a challenge to the idea of femininity on the battlefield.

Do women really make the battlefield more dangerous? Former Army Sergeant Kayla Williams, when interviewed on NPR early this week, said “I never saw that happen while I was deployed when we were in dangerous situations”.

Empirical evidence to support this idea of women posing threat to cohesiveness, as Megan Mackenzie has pointed out at the Duck of Minerva blog, is few and far between. A 1997 RAND study cited by Mackenzie found female inclusion to have little effect on unit effectiveness, readiness or morale. This body of research, and recent experience with mixed-gender units, has not seen the kind of unit cohesion breakdown that so many predict, and there are even reports that mixed units can be more effective.

There is one piece of evidence brought up frequently by detractors as proof that women and men cannot be mixed in combat for the reason that Santorum gives, that natural protection instinct. I’ve often seen people citing Israel as a model, saying that the Israeli Defense Force’s stance on gender integration was informed by knowledge of heightened male aggression and risk-taking in the face of an endangered woman. This is an interesting piece of evidence to consider, first because the Israeli army is highly integrated, preventing women from serving in only 12 percent of service positions and showing successes with mixed units, not to mention that it also drafts women. The IDF has operated like this since legislation in 2000 which followed a mid-1990s discrimination suit. It’s also interesting because this claim is never accompanied by a link to a broader report or study, yet remains considered to be unassailable fact.

A little research comes up with nothing on this front except for a 1996 book by a Lt. Col. Dave Grossman titled On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. In Chapter 4, he writes that:

“The Israelis have consistently refused to put women in combat since their experiences in 1948. I have been told by several Israeli officers that this is because in 1948 they experienced recurring incidences of uncontrolled violence among male Israeli soldiers who had had their female combatants killed and injured in combat, and because the Arabs were extremely reluctant to surrender to women.”

This support is shaky at best, referencing something much more casual and unscientific than an official report, and based on the military experiences of 64 years ago. After finding this, I consider it safe to largely dismiss the claim in the face of other more recent and relevant experiences, like those of Kayla Williams, and the contrary findings of actual studies.

Rick Santorum’s argument sounds convincing at first, and has won him countless nods of agreement. Rhetorically attractive as it may be, the argument is specious and remains centered more on cultural misconceptions of both gender and of the military than it does solid fact or researched evidence.