Romney: Year One

What would happen if you took Mitt Romney's foreign-policy promises extremely literally?

Sure, some might argue that there would be no real differences between the second-term foreign policy of President Barack Obama and the first-term foreign policy of President Mitt Romney. They might even be correct in pointing out that foreign-policy campaign rhetoric matters little once the candidate becomes the president.

Just for fun, however, what if all those campaign words did matter? What if President Romney had to implement every foreign policy campaign promise he's ever made in every foreign-policy white paper, op-ed, campaign statement, or random utterance that came from his campaign? What would the first year of a Romney presidency look like when it met the real world?

The editors of Foreign Policy thought that would be a fun little thought experiment, and they've been keenly aware that I have paid close attention to Romney's foreign policy musings. So, at their request, here's what the first year of a Romney administration would look like for world affairs.

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DAY 1: The first day of a Romney presidency brings two major shifts in foreign policy. First, Romney announces that he has "designated [China] as a currency manipulator" and demands that China play by the trade rules. Second, he reinstates the Mexico City policy. Combining these two policies, he also "cut[s] off funding for the United Nations Population Fund, which supports China's barbaric One Child Policy."

The effect: Labeling China as a currency manipulator means the United States must bring the issue to the International Monetary Fund. Given how the IMF has handled past accusations of Chinese currency manipulation this means that ... nothing will change. The Mexico City policy will shift the strategies of various development NGOs, echoing what happened when George W. Bush became president in 2001. Yawn.

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DAY 30: In his first State of the Union address, President Romney unveils his first set of defense proposals. He pledges to "reverse Obama-era military cuts" and announces his policy of ensuring that "core defense spending" will never fall below "a floor of 4 percent of GDP." The pace of shipbuilding will also be accelerated to "increase the naval shipbuilding rate from nine per year to approximately 15 per year" and no carriers will be mothballed.

The effect: With likely GOP majorities in both houses of Congress, and numerous Democrats unwilling to look soft on national security, President Romney is easily able to pass a new National Defense Authorization Act that incorporates the new defense buildup. To offset costs, the "bloated" civilian bureaucracies in the Pentagon are severely cut, drastically reducing oversight on procurement-related matters.

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DAY 60: With his cabinet fully in place, President Romney can now focus on some of his major foreign-policy priorities, like preventing Iran from acquiring nukes. As a candidate, Romney pledged to implement "a fifth round of sanctions targeted at the financial resources that underpin the Iranian regime and its Revolutionary Guard Corps."

The effect: Minimal. Congress will be eager to impose such sanctions, but the really crippling ones -- on Iran's oil exports -- were imposed by the European Union in the summer of 2012.


DAY 100: This is a big day for the Romney administration's foreign policy. According to its campaign white paper, the administration by this day will have restored America's naval capability, strengthened and repaired all relationships with major allies, committed to a robust national missile-defense system, launched an economic opportunity initiative for Latin America, and ordered an interagency initiative on cybersecurity. All of that is peanuts, however, next to the fact that by this day, Romney's "full interagency review of our military and assistance presence in Afghanistan" will have been completed. Which means we will now know what the Romney administration's Af-Pak policy will be!

The effect: Your guess is as good as mine. Based on Romney's campaign rhetoric, all we can be sure of is two things. First, generals on the ground will be consulted. Second, the goal will be victory, not negotiating with the Taliban. If those two imperatives conflict ... well, then, your guess is as good as mine.


DAY 150: By this point, Romney's pledge to "review the implementation of the New START treaty" with Russia, our No. 1 geopolitical foe, will have been completed. So far, implementation seems to be going OK, but one can only guess at how the Russians will handle a president Romney trying to wean Europe from the grip of energy dependence on Moscow (not to mention how the Kremlin will respond to his calls to get tough on Iran and Syria).

The effect: Minimal. Even if Romney dislikes New START, it's just as likely that the United States withdraws from this treaty as President Obama withdrawing from NAFTA. Not gonna happen.


DAY 200: The 2013 summit in St. Petersburg creates some ticklish problems for the Romney administration. Beyond the pain of visiting America's top geopolitical foe, candidate Romney called for the publication of all exchanges between heads of state during the campaign. Romney therefore proposes that the entirety of the G-20 heads of state summit be recorded, with a transcript made available to the press for greater transparency.

The effect: Romney scores the biggest laugh in the history of the G-20 summits, thereby breaking the ice with other world leaders.


DAY 250: In the run-up to Romney's first East Asian trip, his administration updates the "pivot" with three new initiatives. First, as part of his pledge to coordinate closely with Taiwan on that country's defense needs "with adequate aircraft and other military platforms," the United States agrees to sell F-16 fighter jets to the Republic of China. Second, Romney proposes renaming the Trans-Pacific Partnership the "Asia-Pacific Reagan Economic Zone." Third, Romney says his envoys would "persuade China to commit to North Korea's disarmament" by "demonstrat[ing] to the Chinese that they should join the coordinated effort or be left behind as a regional counter-proliferation partner."

The effect: These combined moves provoke a very strong Chinese response. Beijing blasts the arms sales and accuses the Romney administration of intruding into matters of exclusive Chinese sovereignty. In response, the PLA Navy aggressively expands its operations in the South China Sea to put pressure on U.S. allies in the region. China further rejects the offer to join a Reagan Economic Zone. On the other hand, China is quite taken with the Romney administration's efforts to persuade Beijing that, after more than a half-century of backing North Korea and enduring almost two decades of American harangues, it is now in its best interests to pressure North Korea. Hah -- just kidding!! Romney's efforts at persuasion bear no fruit.


The List

The 7 Worst Songs of Eurovision 2012

The lowlights of Europe's annual tribute to trashy Europop.

Azerbaijan, which has recently jailed human rights protesters, cracked down on dissidents, and ignored politically motivated murders, might not seem like the most likely place for Eurovision's 2012 Song Contest. Unfortunately, the storm of criticism for the government in Baku isn't quite loud enough to drown out the music itself. From Russian babushkas imploring the audience to "come on and boom-boom" to mohawked male Irish twins in tin-man jumpsuits whose music was once declared an "act of war," here's a round-up of seven contestants who shouldn't have made the trip. And people wonder why America is still the king of cultural exports.

Russia: Buranovskiye Babushki - "Party For Everybody"

Parties aren't just for Miley Cyrus and the USA anymore. The Buranovskiye Babushkis are grandmothers, all originally from the village of Buranovo in the Udmurt Republic. There were eight of them, but only six are allowed to appear at Eurovision. The grannies wrote the song themselves in their native tongue, Udmurt. This isn't the babushkas' first time at Eurovision; in 2010 they performed "Dlinnaja-Dlinnaja Beresta I Kak Sdelat Iz Nee Aishon" ("Very long birch bark and how to turn it into a turban"), finishing third. If they win this year, the grandmothers say they'll use their new cash monies to build a church in their village.

Ireland: Jedward - "Waterline"

On a trip to Dublin last year, President Barack Obama was subjected to a concert by Jedward, which Fox News declared an "act of war." The 21-year old Irish twins are best known for their puffs of bleached hair, and their biggest hit until now was a mash-up of Queen and Vanilla Ice (we can only assume that hum in the background is Freddie Mercury spinning in his grave). Eurovision isn't their first time in the spotlight; they've also been on X Factor and Celebrity Big Brother, where they made friends with Tara Reid (who later starred in one of their music videos). In Baku, their biggest problem has been that the sequins on their costumes keep falling off and jamming the shower that douses them during the song's finale.  

Montenegro: Rambo Amadeus - "Euro Neuro"

Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco, Talib Kwali -- meet Rambo. He's Montenegro's most socially conscientious rapper, and yes, his stage name is a reference to both John Rambo and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He's worried about the "post-industrial informatics revolution going on" right now, and yet lays down rhymes like "only one rule/always stay cool/like a swimming pool." At Eurovision, he shares the stage with a giant Trojan horse, which Rambo claims is actually a donkey. As Rambo himself says, "I am good with words. And by the way, I am also good with music so I can go to places which are beyond any description."

San Marino: Valentina Monetta - "The Social Network Song (Uh, Uh, Oh, Oh)"

As if the IPO debacle wasn't enough embarrassment for Facebook this week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg also has to deal with a middle-aged aspiring pop star from a tiny country inside Italy waxing lyrical about the casual sex she procured on his site. The original title was the Facebook Song (Uh, Uh, Oh, Oh), but it had to be changed to meet the Eurovision rule prohibiting commercial messages. The song begins innocently enough, talking about "logging in with friends," but quickly progresses to "Do you wanna be more than just a friend?" and "Do you wanna play cybersex again?"

Latvia: Anmary - "Beautiful Song"

A songstress from Latvia, Anmary changed her name from Linda just for the contest. But a singer by any other name is still as vapid -- here's a sample of her incisive (and insipid) lyrics:

"And the day when Sir Mick Jagger phones me
Tell him please that I am very busy
Writing songs with Paul McCartney
"So sorry, Mick, I'll call you back, one day I'll call you back."

It's doubtful Mr. Jagger is waiting by the phone.

Slovakia: Max Jason Mai - "Don't Close Your Eyes"

Max Jason Mai is a 23-year old rock musician sporting a six pack, a hair-metal mane, and a modicum of musical talent. A departure from the soft pop that is the usual Eurovision fare, Max made a name for himself by transforming the other competing songs into a medley of hard rock versions. But he's not all about head-banging: In an interview with ESC Daily, Max explained that he also likes "yoga, love, and nature." Opening up about his softer side, Max told the magazine he "reveres all living beings, that's why he's vegetarian and he doesn't wear clothes made from leather, as he wouldn't want to be a handbag either."

Iceland: Greta Salome and Jonsi - "Never Forget"

Originally titled "Mundu eftir mér," "Never Forget" is the English translation of the song, which was written in Icelandic. Jonsi -- not related to the Jonsi of Sigur Ros -- recently starred in the Icelandic version of Grease, a huge blockbuster for the island, and his partner Greta plays in the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. But although some popular hits have made it across Iceland's frosty borders to broader audiences, don't expect to see this song make anyone's favorite playlist.