It’s a scary world out there, if you read Mitt Romney’s white paper on national security. If he is elected, it’s going to get even scarier.

Romney as president would boost U.S. military spending and naval shipbuilding. He would dispatch aircraft carrier task forces to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf as a warning to Iran. He would expand the naval presence in the Western Pacific as a warning to China. The U.S. should be coordinating with Taiwan to determine its military needs and supplying them with adequate aircraft and other military platforms, he says.

If that doesn’t look like a provocation, I don’t know what does. Would Iran take it lying down? And what about the effects on the oil price? At the same time, Romney says he would be looking for China’s help in dealing with the nuclear threat from North Korea.

He doesn’t explain how America will pay for such a military increase, beyond finding “efficiencies” in the bloated Pentagon bureaucracy and in the procurement system. He doesn’t explain why countries like China would be willing to cooperate with the U.S., which is seeking to contain them militarily. He (or the committee that wrote this paper) has not thought through how China might react to being assured that it would get help in the case of a North Korean collapse. The whole point about China’s alliance with North Korea is that strategically it is preventing the U.S. from holding sway over the entire Korean peninsula.

Romney clearly wants to put the swagger back into American foreign policy. He’s talking tough to Vladimir Putin before he returns to the Russian presidency next year. Same goes for Pakistan, whose interests are not considered when he talks about reinforcing a strategic alliance with India.

He invokes Ronald Reagan to declare “Peace through strength.” That may have worked in the 1980s, when America could afford to throw billions at a project like “Star Wars,” which would never work. Today, the country is on the brink of recession. So this policy for an “American century” looks more like a rhetorical flourish, full of internal contradictions, than a serious bid to reassert American influence around the world.