Opinion » Lead

Updated: July 27, 2012 00:16 IST

The world according to Romney

Inderjeet Parmar
Comment (12)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

A ‘Mormon foreign policy’ would actually be good for America and great for the world, but it won’t happen

As the world prepares to face another United States presidential election — one in which President Barack Obama is the front-runner but not a shoo-in by a long-shot — governments and analysts across the globe, including in India, must ask themselves what the likely foreign and national security policies of America’s first ‘Mormon’ White House under Mitt Romney might look like.

Widely derided as either weird or a cult, a foreign policy true to Mormon beliefs would likely see radical shifts — a massive rollback of American military forces from Afghanistan, decline in the threatening attitude to Iran, a reversal of blanket support and aid to Israel, and slashed military spending. America would “come home” and experience a real peace dividend that so patently failed to materialise after the end of the Cold War.


But there’s a difference between authentic Mormon beliefs and ex-Bishop Willard Mitt Romney, the Church of Latter Day Saints’ establishment and, it must be noted, the majority of American Mormons. So “Americanised” are Romney, the LDS establishment, and lay Mormons that a Romney White House would probably differ little in practice from previous administrations — including JFK’s “Roman Catholic” and Obama’s “African-American” ones. And that is testimony to the almost overweening assimilationist powers of the American Way of Life — the subordination, or hollowing out, of any beliefs that challenge free enterprise, limited government, American exceptionalism, and U.S. proactive global leadership.

A variety of dissenting voices — socialist, conservative, and others — are heard in the Mormon community which, at 14 million strong worldwide, is the fourth largest denomination in the U.S. “Mormons for Ron Paul” — a libertarian Republican contender for the GOP’s nomination who may have as much as 20 per cent of all delegates at the upcoming national convention in Tampa, Florida — argue that Mr. Romney, the LDS hierarchy and fellow Christians have forgotten the fundamentals of Christian beliefs in peace, diplomacy and negotiation. But when Ron Paul, a Congressman from Texas, rejected U.S. military intervention as a “silver bullet” for global problems, he was met with derision from fellow Republicans and Christians. LDS “Liberty” members, who also backed Mr. Paul, suggested that U.S. foreign policy be run according to the Bible’s “Golden Rule” — the principle that “forbids interference by one with the rights of another. It is equally binding upon nations, associations, and individuals…” “Love your enemies,” they suggest, while deriding as “death and destruction” large swathes of American foreign and national security policy.

Meanwhile, the “Latter Day Conservatives” website further underlines the Mormons’ authentic belief in Christian values. They argue that Christians should ever lift “a standard of peace” rather than fight wars or exact “vengeance” even for the terror attacks on 9/11, rejecting “pre-emptive war” on Iraq, or a future war on Iran, as Mr. Romney threatens, if elected. Projecting back into American history to trace the rise of an interventionist mindset, LDS Conservatives criticise President Woodrow Wilson’s alleged support for a “world safe for democracy” during World War I, suggesting that “There is one and only one legitimate goal of U.S. foreign policy…: the preservation of our national independence. Nothing in the Constitution grants that the President shall have the privilege of offering himself as a world leader… [nor] to influence the life of other countries, to ‘uplift’ their cultures, to bolster their economies…”

Yet, so reputedly integrated into the American Way are Mormons that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency regard mere LDS membership as de facto patriotic loyalty tests. And there is a logical reason: Mormons believe the American Constitution to be a sacred document received direct from God — not the work of mere mortals. They also believe fundamentally in America’s exceptional character and mission. And this aligns perfectly with the missionary character of Mormonism. Indeed, the teetotal Mitt Romney spent years in France — and in French bars — trying to win converts to the cause.

There are Mormons, however, who lament the uncritical acceptance among their community of the word from the White House in regard to the dangers to the republic from “monsters abroad”. To some, the broad mass of Mormons appear to be only faintly familiar with the Book of Mormon, the LDS’s earliest and most holy scripture, making them prey to “scheming leaders”. They reject the claims of the LDS establishment, which backed the preventive war on Iraq in 2003, on the basis that it was a war, in the words of LDS President, Gordon B. Hinckley, “not… for… power but… for [Americans’] homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.”

From the Left, The Mormon Worker not only rejects Mr. Romney’s foreign policies on Israel and the Palestinians, among others, but also lambasts President Obama’s strategy — before and during the Arab spring — of supplying American arms to some of the most repressive and backward regimes in the region to put down popular revolts.

But these are relatively isolated voices in the Mormon community, while Mr. Romney swims with the tide. Candidate Romney has drawn his foreign policy advisors from among re-organised and renewed neoconservatives who backed the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) and other militaristic organisations — like Elliott Cohen, William Kristol, Robert Kagan, John Bolton — that called for an American war on Iraq as early as 1997. Not for Mr. Romney, a foreign affairs novice, the counsel of old time Republican internationalists like Brent Scowcroft or Richard Armitage, or Reagan-Bush I era former secretaries of state, James Baker III or George P. Shultz — who were aggressive enough in the pursuit of American power. Consequently, the Republican contender has veered towards bellicose declarations — no negotiations with the Taliban (instead the U.S. should “go anywhere they are and … kill them”), greater military and economic pressure on Iran, more arms to Taiwan, and declared Russia America’s main geopolitical enemy.

Inner circle

Mr. Romney has dozens of foreign and national security policy advisors but his inner circle is reputed to be similar to George W. Bush’s ‘vulcans’ — neoconservative hardliners who appear to think that the Iraq War was a great American victory and that the military budget should be increased by $200 billion by 2016 (the Obama administration had increased military spending by $200 billion over that of President Bush in 2008; Mr. Romney’s plans project spending to increase 38 per cent higher than President Obama’s current plans), including an increase of 100,000 soldiers in the military, from five to nine navy ships built annually, stationing two aircraft carriers off Iran’s coast (Mr. Obama has ramped up such pressure on Iran too), and installing a missile defence system in Europe. At the same time, Mr. Romney advocates cutting taxes by 20 per cent; in 2010, Mr. Obama, it may be recalled, retained President Bush’s planned tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. The Obama administration’s militarism has pushed Romney to even greater, politically less credible, extremes.

A truly Mormon White House? If only…

(Inderjeet Parmar is Professor of Politics, School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester)

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This article is in the same category these days when it concerns The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in nothing more that a political attack on the Republican nominee for President. When it comes to what the church stands for or what Romney believes is nothing more than a guess has used this commentary to strike a political blow at the Republican candidate for president. I believe we must return reality that our nation is falling fast and if we don't place someone in the office of president who can an will unify the branches of the U.S. Government to bring the people's gpvernment under control in all areas, this is the cause of a 16 trillion plus national debt that will destroy the nation. Regardless of which numerous parties we each individually belong to. Mitt is our best hope in doing so.

from:  Fred E
Posted on: Jul 27, 2012 at 08:56 IST

I am a Mormon and have lived all over the USA and in Japan, but I have NO IDEA
what your little cartoon is supposed to mean. The hand gesture with two fingers
tofether is utterly meaningless to Mormons. The association if the gesture with a
dollar sign (?) makes no sense. Unlike most Christian churches, all local and regional
pastors in the Mormon Church are unpaid parttime volunteers fornwhom church
leadership means a sacrifice if 25 - 30 hoursnper week of time, and theynsuppirt
theirbfamilies with conventional careers as truckndrivers, businessmen, military
officers, lawyers, dentists, scientists or professors. The 100 or so full time senior
leaders gave up lucrative careers that paid much more than their church salaries.
They were university presudents, heart surgeins, a vice president if Lufthansa,
attorneys in international law firms, a nuclear engineer, a book publisher, and
business owners. No one gets rich from Mormon Church service.

from:  Raymond Takashi Swenson
Posted on: Jul 27, 2012 at 04:36 IST

Mormons have been involved in US international policy for a hundred years. They
have included members of Congress from both political parties, as well as heads of
Federal agencies appointed by presidents of both parties, inclyding Agriculture,
Treasury, Interior, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human
Services, Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Coast Guard,
and Solicitor General (thirdbranking in the Department of Justice). They have been
ambassadors to China, Mexico, Norway, Malagasy Republic, and the UN. There is NO
consistent, "Mormon" foreign policy detectable among all or even a majority of them.
The Mormons who support Ron Paul are opposed on many policy positions by
Mormons supporting the more conventional positions of Mitt Romney. The Church
of Jesus Christ if Latter-day Saints does NOT have a foreign policy with respect to the
relations between the USA and other nations. Most Mormons actually live outside
the USA.

from:  Raymond Takashi Swenson
Posted on: Jul 27, 2012 at 04:24 IST

The US foreign policy and international relations will not be
determined by the Mormon religion of Mitt Romney, if he wins the US
presidential elections. The policies of the US government is not
dependent on the religion, color or race of the President. The foreign
policy of the US is determined by the President and the political
party in power. The Indian foreign policy is not determined by the
Muslim religion of the former President Abdul Kalam, Hindu religion of
the present President Pranab Mukerjee or the Sikh religion of Manmohan
Singh. The chances are that the foreign policy of India may be
determined by religious parties when the ultra religious parties come
to power. The US or Indian foreign policy is not determined by the
religious groups, unlike the Arab countries and Muslim countries. The
Arab countries and Muslim countries have their own international
organizations. The international affairs and foreign policy of these
countries are determined by Muslim ideology.

from:  Davis K. Thanjan
Posted on: Jul 27, 2012 at 03:13 IST

A bizzare article. There is enough odd stuff in Hindu and Muslim scriptures and books that next time we have a Hindu PM we should that person whether they are following all the rules of their religion or if they are going to disown their religion.

from:  ashokr
Posted on: Jul 27, 2012 at 00:09 IST

Grammatical errors mar this essay. Consider this: The adjective phrase “Widely derided as either weird or a cult” appears to dangle but actually qualifies “a foreign policy…” and therefore makes no sense. In any case, unlike what people in Manchester, UK may think, the Mormonism in the US is not “widely derided” nor do people think it is “weird”. These days not a day passes without one hearing on the TV about people belonging to so many ways of life, ranging from Scientology to Buddhism, and from so many far off lands. Strange religions, beliefs, and habits hardly raise eyebrows. I am an avid reader of news from a variety of sources, and to me many of the statements in this essay are unbelievable because they lack corroboration. For example, the assertion that being a Mormon will exempt one from FBI and CIA scrutiny, is absurd.

Posted on: Jul 26, 2012 at 23:17 IST

An interesting piece and well written.

I would point out, however, that although the Mormon church claims 14
million adherents, that figure is grossly overstated. A recent Reuters
piece pointed out that the church counts anyone who WAS EVER baptized as
a member. Many (about half) of new converts leave within one year. The
actual number of practicing Mormons is about 5 million.

from:  Justine Harrison
Posted on: Jul 26, 2012 at 18:29 IST

As someone has pointed out above, historically US foreign policy has been less about whether a Republican or a Democrat was in power and more about which US companies had the money to rule over their puppets in the White house.

Regardless of the economic woes of majority of its population(as evidenced by the Occupy Wall Street movement) and the travails of the developing world, the US capitalist juggernaut shall roll on, trampling real economic and political freedom back home and abroad.

from:  Rahul Apte
Posted on: Jul 26, 2012 at 11:13 IST

For outsiders there is no difference between policies of Republicans and Democrates. Election symbols of both these parties are animals. There is animal instinct in their policies. Romney may be a mormon. But he cannot change his party's policies as per mormon theory. Obama came to white house with a call "change is possible". Outside world could not see any change. They are ruthless in interferance. Bloodshed in Libiya is the latest example. If Romney comes there will be more bloodsehed. Obama wants to get out of Afganistan but Romney will prolong the stay. Further he will firm America's foothold in Syria. If American leader behave as per the letter and spirit of their constitution which says no interference in other countires matters world would be a very happy place to live.

from:  T.V.Padmanabhan
Posted on: Jul 26, 2012 at 10:19 IST

Interesting commentary. Yes, my Mormon folks in Idaho, Nevada and Utah are somewhat isolationist. However, they are also fervent supporters of the military, the government, even President Obama. Senator Harry Reid, of Searchlight, Nevada is both Senate Majority Leader, a vocal supporter of President Obama and his foreign policy, and a devout Mormon. Or look at Governor Huntsman, of Utah, who ran against Romney in the Republican race. He dropped out after he made it clear science could not be ignored in policy. Republican nominees these days must pass pay homage to religious conservatives - many who feel and say Mormonism is a cult. Huntsman, who speaks fluent Chinese, served as US ambassador to China, and his sons serve as officers in the Navy. One or more of these young men may be off Iran's coast now. Hunstman is also a devout Mormon. Many of my relations feel Romney going to make money on the East Coast away from his culture and people was a poor choice. We call them jack-Mormons.

from:  Ed Hayden
Posted on: Jul 26, 2012 at 09:02 IST

I accept this article's criticisms of American foreign policy and its arguable disconnect from Christian principles that the majority of Americans claim to espouse, but I don't really see how Romney being a Mormon ties into this. Romney is more a politician than a Mormon, just as Obama is more a politician than a Black American. Each is largely a puppet of their party and of the public, and it's unrealistic to expect them to be otherwise; if they weren't they wouldn't get the vote.

Most Mormons, like most Americans in general, think very little about international affairs during their day-to-day lives, and their views can't be represented by a few small websites managed by a few individual Mormons. It's nice to see acknowledgement that Mormon beliefs and opinions on global affairs are not monolith or universal, but I fail to see how Mormonism is related to the substance of this piece.

If Romney wins, his presidency won't be Mormon, but rather republican. Don't forget it.

from:  Trent
Posted on: Jul 26, 2012 at 05:42 IST

Keshav's cartoon sums it all Kudos to Keshav.

from:  Dr Basheer Ahmed Khan
Posted on: Jul 26, 2012 at 03:05 IST
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