- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2010

NO APOLOGY: THE CASE FOR AMERICAN GREATNESS

By Mitt Romney

St. Martin’s Press, $25.99, 305 pages

Reviewed by Wes Vernon

If you’re looking for one thoughtful roadmap as to how America can extricate itself from nearly every problem that symbolizes the mess our nation is in, you might want to consider (and heavily underline) former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’sprescriptions. Whether you agree with them, they are fact-based and loaded with statistics.



His newly-released “No Apologies: the Case for American Greatness” tackles most of the issues one can expect from a mere 305 pages, and the 2008 GOP primary hopeful candidly names the few problems he was unable to include - either by his choice or that of his editors.

Right up front, Mr. Romney names the United States as one of the four “competitors” in pursuit of world leadership. The other three are China, Russia and radical Islamism - all threats to our political, economic and military role, and potential dangers to our very security.

In world politics, as in business - according to this successful venture capitalist - “Being number one isn’t just about bragging rights. Often, it means the difference between prosperity and merely hanging on.”

The threat from China lies in its combination of a strain of “capitalism” and the authoritarianism of its ruling Communist Party, its hold on a large part of U.S. debt, its consistent military buildup, saber-rattling at its neighbors and its sanctioning the theft of America’s secrets and intellectual property - military as well as commercial. The author says he has been assured by business and government leaders of the Asian powerhouse that they have no military designs on the West. His assessment of Chinese leaders: “Everything points to their intent to be a responsible, unaggressive world player - except their actions.”

Russia can become a world leader again, and Mr. Romney says we need to be wary and vigilant because “by mid-century, our grandchildren may well view Russia with the same concern we and our parents once did.”

He cites its de facto leader Vladimir Putin as having opined “that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was ‘the greatest catastrophe of the twentieth century.’ He is taking steps to rebuild what was lost.” Forget Mr. Putin’s earlier musings about Russia possibly joining NATO. That was then.

Though the Chinese and Rus- sian threats to the United States do not present the likelihood of a near-term head-to-head, such is not the case with radical Islamism, or what the former governor calls “The Holy Warriors.”

The Sept. 11, 2001 attack was launched in part to get our attention after we had brushed aside earlier attacks that were meant to convey the message that the radical Islamists’ 1998 declaration of war on the United States was serious. And yet, Mr. Romney laments, “some Americans cannot bring themselves to recognize the scope and reality of the jihadist threat.”

“Political correctness” and wishful thinking threaten to get in the way of actions required for our self-preservation, Mr. Romney believes. “[W]hile Western nations take care to separate church from state, for the Islamists, religion and government are to be one … Islam is a religion and a state.”

In pursuit of world leadership, says the author, “only the United States and the West are reducing their financial commitment to national defense.”

In the domestic arena, some conservatives argue that Mr. Romney’s Massachusetts health care plan bears an “uncanny resemblance” to Obamacare. The governor disagrees. Unlike the president’s program, Romneycare did not create a “public option,” which would be subsidized at great cost to taxpayers and would give government the kind of monopoly unavailable to a private entity. He says the Massachusetts plan “proves” that to get everyone insured, it is not necessary to create a government-run health care system. Obamacare, he says, is a “political shell game.”

Mr. Romney is ambivalent on “man-made global warming” as a threat, while rejecting President Obama’s “cap and trade” energy taxes as ineffective and unnecessarily burdensome on the economy. He says we should cut greenhouse gas emissions “consistent with our objective of reducing our dependence on foreign sources of oil.”

He offers ideas on how to rein in out-of-control entitlement spending; faults education for downgrading essentials such as American history and Western civilization courses; and seeks to revive the American work ethic.

Quibbles and caveats? A few.

(1) “The best ally world peace has ever known is a strong America,” the author argues. Very true. Gone are the days of the early-20th century when “isolationism [an unfair pejorative]” made some sense.

Though the book makes a strong case against America’s withdrawal from the world, the other extreme - Wilsonian overreach - can win new enemies for us.

That mindset was on display in the Bush administration’s successful use of U.S. power to back Muslim-majority Kosovo in its drive for independence from Christian Serbia. John Bolton, the respected ambassador to the United Nations - no “isolationist” - he worried over the then-administration’s “dismissive attitude” to objections to the Kosovo policy.

(2) Mr. Romney refers to the 1949 downfall of China to the Communists without mentioning the role played by overly Eurocentric and pro-Red Chinese influences within our own government. His praise for President Truman’s Secretary of State Dean Acheson is not balanced by mention of the latter’s role in the “Who lost China” fiasco or the lessons that can be applied to dealing with today’s threats.

(3) He thinks we should add “at least” 100,000 ground troops. In an all-volunteer military how would that be accomplished? Apparently providing veterans with top-quality care and benefits is one attraction. Beyond that there are few details.

(4) Among the issues the author or his editors omitted were homeland security, intelligence policies and national infrastructure. Too bad. All three deserve attention in this book.

Such reservations do not eclipse the value in this lively, well-written work, which at the same time bears a resemblance to a well-researched briefing book. Here is an accomplished executive in the private and public sectors who has done his homework. If he runs again for president in 2012, most of his agenda is on the record from the start.

Wes Vernon is a Washington-based writer and veteran broadcast journalist.

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