No Apology: Chapter 1 – The Pursuit of the Difficult

WE MUST FACE OUR CHALLENGES OR DIMINISH

Romney starts the chapter with a quote his dad used to recite to him: “the pursuit of the difficult makes men strong.” Romney states that over the years, he’s come to believe that this idea applies to more than individuals—it applies to businesses and nations as well.

He maintains that America has always faced great challenges. He cites a few examples from America’s history and states that there really hasn’t been a time when we were free of challenges. It seemed, after Reagan and Bush had presided over the fall of the Soviet Union, many thought “peace and prosperity were here to stay—without threat, without sacrifice.” Of course, that proved untrue.

America has faced great challenges in the past and faces huge challenges now. He believes we will “remain the leading nation in the world only if we face our challenges head on.” If we do not face and overcome them, we will become “the France—still a great country, but no longer the world’s leading nation.”

The question is: what’s so bad about that?

The answer is that some other nation or nations would fill the power vacuum. Romney poses the fundamental question: “what nation or nations would rise, and what would be the consequences for our safety, freedom, and prosperity?”

FOUR GLOBAL STRATEGIES FOR WORLD POWER

Romney suggests that there are a number of nations and groups who are “intent on replacing America as the world’s political, economic, and military leader.” He states that there are, in fact, “four major strategies currently being pursued to achieve world leadership.”

The first global strategy to achieve world power is the one represented by the United States. It is a strategy based on two fundamental principles: economic freedom and political freedom. Those nations that follow this strategy have become economic powerhouses and account for more than 60% of the world’s GDP. They are also the countries who have given humankind the most freedom.

The second global strategy is the one pursued by China. Its fundamental principles are free enterprise and authoritarian rule. He spends a couple of pages discussing how well Chinese enterprise is doing. Then he believes China is intent on becoming stronger than the United States.

The third main global strategy is the one pursued by Russia. It’s fundamental principles are authoritarian rule and controlling energy. “By controlling people and energy, Russia aims to reassert itself as a global superpower.” He then explains how this could be possible.

The fourth main strategy for global power is the one pursued by the violent jihadists, who count many foreign leaders in their numbers. Their strategy is based on conquest and compulsion through a variety of tactical means.

Of these four strategies in competition today only one is founded on freedom. Romney then suggests that we can be confident that our children and grandchildren will be free ONLY IF the economic and military strength of America and the West endure. He suggests that our superpower status is not inevitable. “Three other global strategies, each pursued by at least one state or major actor, are aggressively being pursued to surpass us, and in some cases, to suppress us. The proponents of each are convinced they will succeed. And world history offers us no encouragement.”

Because of this, he believes that “our primary objective as a nation must be to keep America strong. I am convinced that every policy, every political initiative, every new law or regulation should be evaluated in large measure by whether it makes us stronger or weaker” because “our freedom, security, and prosperity are at stake.”

OBAMA’S DRAMATIC SHIFT IN FOREIGN POLICY

Romney next maintains that president Obama has introduced a foreign policy that “is a rupture with some of the key assumptions that have undergirded more than six decades of American foreign policy.”

He states that when World War 2 ended, America executed a “dramatic and profoundly meaningful shift in our relationship with the rest of the world.” Previously we had guarded our own hemisphere and attempted to stay isolated from the affairs of Europe and Asia. But we found with WW1 and WW2 that “our vital interests could not be secure in the face of threats to the cause of freedom elsewhere. At the dawn of the nuclear age, a third world war was unthinkable; it would mean the destruction of humankind.” So the president and leaders of both parties “shifted America’s foreign policy. America took on the task of anticipating, containing, and eventually defeating threats to the progress of freedom in the belief that actively protecting others was the best way to protect ourselves.”

This new order had three main pillars:

1. “Active involvement and participation in world affairs”
2. “Active promotion of American and Western values including democracy, free enterprise, and human rights”
3. “A collective security umbrella for America and her allies”

He talks about how all the presidents, Democrat and Republican, followed this new strategy. But President Obama is engineering a dramatic shift away from it based on his own underlying attitudes.

Obama envisions an America that arbitrates disputes rather than advocate ideals. This is one of the reasons why he apologized to countries around the globe for American arrogance, trying to placate our enemies. This is also why it seems he has undercut many allies, including Israel, Poland, and Columbia. To be an arbitrator, you need to be equidistant from both sides. Not advocating for one or the other.

Another one of Obama’s assumptions is that “America is in a state of inevitable decline.” He, therefore, considers it futile to fight it; instead, it’s his job to help us manage our decline. Romney suggests Obama believes maintaining a dominant America is “a bad idea even if it were possible.”

Of course, Romney fundamentally disagrees with that assessment.

GETTING BACK ON TRACK

Romney suggests several things we can do to get back on track:

• Treat our allies like allies
• Strengthen the American economy
• Increase our defense spending
• Remind ourselves that the most attractive thing about us is our ideas—so we should “encourage democracy where we can, give aid and comfort to those who want it, and not undermine those who already have it”

Undergirding all of this, Romney suggests, “must be a certain conception of the goodness and greatness of America.” This “doesn’t mean America is a perfect country. We have made mistakes and committed grave offenses over the centuries.” But we should recognize that “No nation has shed more blood for more noble causes than the United States. Its beneficence and benevolence are unmatched by any nation on earth, and by any nation in history.”

Romney concludes by saying that he believes America is “destined to remain as it has been since the birth of the Republic—the brightest hope of the world” but only IF we face our challenges head on and work to keep America strong.

MY RANDOM COMMENTS

First, I don’t know if I’m going to have the time to capture each chapter in such detail. We’ll see.

Second, I found the discussion of the four strategies insightful. Particularly because it put in explained a number of questions I had about why Putin’s Russia does what it does. It also gave me insight into China, which I thought was still mostly economically socialistic.

I found the explanation of America’s shift in foreign policy in the 20th century interesting. As well as the shift Obama has made. I think I need to understand Obama better. Does he really think this? The actions and speeches Romney cites certainly are suggestive. Has anyone seen the movie 2016? It sounds similar.

It might appear the book will continue allocating space for attacking Obama, but I believe the six pages in this thirty-page chapter form probably the biggest appearance Obama makes in the book.

It’s clear that Romney’s business experience, especially as a consultant, has influenced how he sees things. The whole talk of strategy and challenges and competition reminds me of Michael Porter.

Porter is a Harvard professor and founder of Monitor, a strategy consulting firm that has been hired by corporations and countries. He is claimed to be the most cited author in business and economics. According to Wikipedia “He is generally recognized as the father of the modern strategy field, and his ideas are taught in virtually every business school in the world. His work has also re-defined thinking about competitiveness, economic development, economically distressed urban communities, environmental policy, and the role of corporations in society. . . his main academic objectives focus on how a firm or a region can build a competitive advantage and develop competitive strategy.”

The idea that America is competing with other nations is, of course, true. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone running for president claim that their central goal, the goal any president should have, is to keep America strong because of the competitive threats we face. The talk is usually all focused on this issue or that without the broader picture I found here. I found Romney’s central tenet clarifying and refreshing. The rest of the book is going to be about how to keep our competitive advantages and strength.

Comments, observations, or issues from anyone who has read the chapter?

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