Of all the falsehoods to attach themselves to President Barack Obama, perhaps the most outrageous is the one that Mitt Romney trotted out during a foreign policy speech on Friday: that Obama is an America apologist who has undercut the country's military.
Speaking at the Citadel military academy in Charleston, South Carolina, Romney cautioned that the feckless policies of the past three years have endangered America and implied that Obama had chosen to wave the white flag of surrender.
If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your president. You have that president today, Romney said, also swearing that I will never, ever apologize for America.
Obama: Strong Against Terrorism
Leave aside the fact that Obama never actually apologized for America, or that he followed a much-derided statement supposedly dismissing American exceptionalism by labeling America's core set of values as exceptional. Romney's argument is specious on many levels, foremost because it ignores how aggressively Obama has prosecuted America's war on Islamic terrorists.
When Romney laid out the major forces that vie with America and free nations, Islamic fundamentalism was the first threat he mentioned. Obama has extended America's campaign of covert drone strikes into Yemen and Somalia, and Osama bin Laden's death from a Navy SEAL's bullet illustrated how a vastly expanded, clandestine army of Special Operations forces has driven a global counterterrorism effort. Al Qaeda is reeling, and even Obama's partisan antagonists have given the president his due.
When you look at the prosecution of the war effort against the enemy in the tribal areas, there's cleary more been done under President Obama than there was under President Bush, in terms of a more aggressive effort focused at them, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said on Friday, offering Obama unequivocal praise ahead of Romney's speech.
Obama has also repeatedly demonstrated an assertive, muscular style that is far from feckless. In sanctioning the assassination of radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, Obama asserted his power to kill a U.S. citizen without due process as an act of war. While he advocated a lead from behind strategy in Libya, he also embraced a sweeping interpretation of executive power that allowed him to commit U.S. forces to military action without Congressional approval.
Obama Has Increased U.S. Military Presence, When Needed
Romney also criticized Obama's plan for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, saying that he would seek the counsel of his military commanders to ascertain the force level necessary to secure our gains and complete our mission. He failed to mention the fact that Obama had already escalated America's military presence there to the point that even when the entirety of the surge that Obama deployed in 2009 has exited the country, there will still be about 70,000 troops in Afghanistan, roughly twice as many as when Obama took office.
By promising to reverse the massive defense cuts ostensibly undertaken by Obama, Romney illustrated that he is either disengenuous or disconnected with reality. Obama has not presided over any such cuts, a projected $350 billion reduction in the Pentagon's budget was the product of a painstakingly achieved bipartisan agreement to raise the debt ceiling. Romney mentioned the cuts immediately after he swore to focus on rebuilding America's economy, apparently unaware that scaling back Pentagon spending was part of a broader effort to tame a ballooning national debt that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen called the most significant threat to our national security.
American military supremacy is not under threat, despite former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' acknowledgment that budget pressure and the shifting landscape of war would require fundamentally re-shaping the priorities of the Pentagon -- the unrivaled strength of America's military is sacrosanct.
Romney knows this, as surely as he knows that Obama has not been weak or ineffective when it comes to foreign policy. Depicting a Democratic president as insufficiently hawkish is a tired and cynical tactic, but in this case it rings as hollow as Romney's attempt to include himself in the American middle class.