Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Russia a Rival or Partner, Not a "Foe"

Someone please fill Mitt in on a fact of diplomacy: Word choice matters, Mr. Romney ... especially when running for or being President.

While this forum seeks to avoid specific endorsements to vote for a particular candidate, it's fair to say that there are certain statements that should clearly rule out the election of a candidate. It's the sort of thing that leaves one wondering, "what was he thinking?"

Not for the first time, having previously said similar things, in the third 2012 Presidential debate Mr. Romney said,
"First of all, Russia, I indicated, is a geopolitical foe ..."
Presuming he's not confused as to what "is" means, perhaps Mr. Romney is unclear on the meaning of "foe". Merriam-Webster defines foe as

  1. one who has personal enmity for another
  2. an enemy in war
  3. one who opposes in principle
  4. something prejudicial or injurious
That's very harsh language. As he's repeatedly stated that they're our foe, the only way it could have been an accident is if he just doesn't understand the meaning of the term. Assuming that he has some idea what he's saying then according to Mr. Romney's choice of term, he essentially claims that either there's hatred between our nations, that we're at war, that we're directly opposed as a matter of principle, or that they're actively hurting us. Mr. Romney is, of course, wrong. Quite thoroughly wrong. Un-Presidentially, ineptly, dangerously wrong.

Granted, relations with Russia are sometimes tense. Granted, our nations historically were foes of each other at certain points in our history. But the same could be said for many of our modern allies, such as Germany and the United Kingdom. That would be no excuse for calling them foes today.

Russia today is our geopolitical rival in many ways. In other ways it our geopolitical partner. We compete with Russia for influence over various nations that are important to both nations in trade. That makes us rivals, not foes. Russia recently allowed us to pass supplies through their territory and worked with us on joint counter-terrorism and counter-piracy efforts. That makes us sometimes partners, not foes.

Romney attempts to excuse his declaration by saying, 
"Russia does continue to battle us in the U.N. time and time again. I have clear eyes on this. I'm not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia or Mr. Putin ..."
If one wishes to avoid wearing rose-colored glasses about a village facing a harsh winter, one does not set fire to the village. That Russia doesn't agree with us about everything in the United Nation just makes them a different nation with interests that don't always match our own. One can't improve our chances of cooperation in the U.N. by declaring them our foe. We may, however, make them more willing to side with us on issues where there's potential for compromise by engaging in joint efforts against our real, mutual foes: terrorists and pirates ... as we have done recently.

One builds an ally through efforts to work together. One builds foes through setting oneself against potential foes. Mitt Romney told us loud and clear what he would do for the United States. He would build us an array of foes. That would hurt us in trade. That would hurt us in treaties. Mitt Romney clearly represents the wrong direction for America in the world.

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