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National Decline and the Election of 2012

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Over at the New York Times, Helene Cooper pens an ode to the upside of downsizing national greatness: American cannot be blamed for causing or obliged to fix international problems.

President Obama arrives in Cannes –how perfect– a sort of number 1 spectator, ably leading from behind, encouraging the Chinese to step up to their job as the world’s banker. Soon Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Panetta will be encouraging their PRC counterparts to step up to their global responsibilities.

The dire state of employment in America is going to be issue number one next fall, followed closely by the bankruptcy of the American treasury.

But the GOP nominee has got to speak against this acceptance of decline as the worst cancer of them all. It isn’t inevitable, and it isn’t irreversible. The same sorts of stories were written about Carter in 1979 and 1980, and the Soviets were vanished in a decade.

There are five GOP debates scheduled in November, and Mitt Romney especially should use the opportunity to focus people on the themes of his speech at the Citadel and especially his understanding of the United States Navy (and by extension the Marine Corps) as the shorthand calculation of American power.

The key graphs of Romney’s Citadel speech:

Our next President will face many difficult and complex foreign policy decisions. Few will be black and white.

But I am here today to tell you that I am guided by one overwhelming conviction and passion: This century must be an American Century. In an American Century, America has the strongest economy and the strongest military in the world. In an American Century, America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world.

God did not create this country to be a nation of followers. America is not destined to be one of several equally balanced global powers. America must lead the world, or someone else will. Without American leadership, without clarity of American purpose and resolve, the world becomes a far more dangerous place, and liberty and prosperity would surely be among the first casualties.

This vision is supported by Romney’s plan of action for his first 100 days, also laid out at the Citadel:

In my first 100 days in office, I will take a series of measures to put these principles into action, and place America-and the world-on safer footing.

Among these actions will be to restore America’s national defense. I will reverse the hollowing of our Navy and announce an initiative to increase the shipbuilding rate from 9 per year to 15. I will begin reversing Obama-era cuts to national missile defense and prioritize the full deployment of a multilayered national ballistic missile defense system. I will order the formulation of a national cybersecurity strategy, to deter and defend against the growing threats of militarized cyber-attacks, cyber-terrorism, and cyber-espionage.

I will enhance our deterrent against the Iranian regime by ordering the regular presence of aircraft carrier task forces, one in the Eastern Mediterranean and one in the Persian Gulf region. I will begin discussions with Israel to increase the level of our military assistance and coordination. And I will again reiterate that Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is unacceptable.

The former governor of Massachusetts has no monopoly on these positions, but he is first to the field to fully articulate them, back them up with a list of advisers and experts, and to welcome the debate with Democrats on the general proposition and the specific proposals.

Newt is likely to be a strong voice in this area as well, and Texas Governor Perry can easily move in this direction over the next few weeks, but they both have to do so to position the party and the race where they need to be: unified in opposition to Obama’s embrace of national withering and national winter.

The key is that the candidates insist that the debates address this central, defining issue of American exceptionalism. The president’s shock troops in the MSM don’t want to talk about shipbuilding, Iran’s crushed revolution, or the retreat from Iraq, so Axelrod’s “GM is alive and bin Laden is dead” preview of coming attractions and David Gregory’s incoherent assessment of Obama’s triumphs abroad foreshadow the obstacles ahead for the GOP nominee.

No matter. Trumpeting American decline works for Manhattan-Beltway media elites and no one else.



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