As many German foreign policy experts agree, the economic development of the United States is palpably restricting Washington's foreign policy margin of maneuver. According to an article on the presidential elections written by Josef Braml, "the weight of the USA's total debt has become unsustainable both economically and politically." Braml is the German Council on Foreign Relations' (DGAP) expert on the USA, who recently published the book "Der amerikanische Patient" ("The American Patient"), wherein he describes the global power's desolate economic situation. Following the downgrading of the US' rating, Washington was forced to make "lawnmower-type" budget cuts, writes Braml. The military and the costly wars could not be spared. The US global "strategy of massive military presence, to secure energy resources and trade routes," can no longer be maintained.
A direct consequence of this development has not only been the initiated - or in the meantime - accomplished troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and Iraq, a step that, according to a recent CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation analysis, is not even contested by the Republican rival Mitt Romney. According to the Adenauer Foundation paper, Romney also due to the "financial restrictions imposed on the homeland," is speaking out in favor of a line of action against "terrorists (...) using drone attacks and undercover operations." But this is exactly the policy being pursued by Barack Obama. "The use of unmanned aerial vehicles," writes Braml, has already "significantly increased." The USA's use of drones - regularly causing large numbers of civilian casualties - is bordering on "the limits of rule of law," according to German experts. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.) Yet, according to Braml, the use of drones permits the US armed forces to make significant cutbacks in the classical air force, "and in the area of conventional troops, as well." Therefore, regardless of electoral results, not a renunciation but rather a reinforcement of drone warfare will be the outcome.
Attack on Iran
The threat of an attack on Iran is just as oblivious to electoral results, according to the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. As explained in the foundation's paper, declarations by both candidates suggest "that no one believes" that Teheran "can be effectively dissuaded," should it acquire nuclear weapons or the technological capability to produce nuclear weapons at short notice. Romney, should he be elected, would surely continue the sanctions, introduced by Obama. But - no matter who will hold the reins in Washington - "a military conflict is probable, should sanctions and other measures prove unconvincing for Teheran to change its current political course."
Power Struggle with China
The new focus of US foreign policy will also remain constant, regardless of who resides in the White House, according to the analysis. "The focus of US security policy" has shifted to the Pacific region, Braml writes. "The USA and Australia" have established "a special relationship for securing the most important trade routes." The United States has put its relationship to its allies in China's immediate neighborhood, "such as Japan and South Korea, on a new basis." Romney has also committed himself to "a stronger focus on this region," the Konrad Adenauer Foundation writes. He favors "a stronger US military presence in the Asia-Pacific realm" and wants to strengthen the alliance with the region's pro-Western countries. This would be a continuation of the current U.S. and German transatlanticist policy. As one expert once formulated it, "a ring of fire is being laid around China." (german-foreign-policy.com reported )
More Participation in War
Pressure will be increased on European NATO members to become more involved in Western wars after the elections, DGAP expert Braml supposes. "The United States will expect Europeans to better coordinate their defense spending (for example with joint arms purchases) and to assume more responsibility for the stabilization of precarious countries such as Afghanistan (for example by training its police units)." According to the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, this could be expected from Obama, who has already made remarks pointing in this direction, but also from Romney. Romney has explicitly complained that the "Europeans" outsource "the costs for their defense to the USA," while "simultaneously enjoying the comforts of high levels of social spending." "From an economic perspective" and because of the "unfair burden sharing," he considers this "no longer tolerable."
Continuity Rather than Change
In light of nearly identical concepts for key foreign policy issues, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation concludes: "When the next [US] president takes the oath of office, in January 2013, continuity rather than change can be expected in US foreign and security policy." Both presidential candidates differ clearly "in their basic orientations": "Barack Obama is the epitome of a liberal internationalist, while Mitt Romney appears to combine nationalist and neo-conservative principles with real politic." One could say that both have "diametrically opposed concepts of state and economic and fiscal policy positions." However, one can hardly distinguish differences in their foreign policy programs. In view of his electorate, Romney is obviously using a more aggressive rhetoric. However, given the factual congruence between his program and that of the incumbent's, it can "be considered, with good conscience, to be the baying of an electoral campaign," rather than "guidelines for a change of policy."