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In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Sunday, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney reiterated a 62-year-old Republican accusation that Democrats are weak on defense. This time the offender is Barack Obama, whose policies, Romney argues, is losing the Middle East to chaos just as it was argued in 1950 that Harry Truman had "lost China" to the commies. Implicitly and explicitly, he blames Obama for the turmoil that has attended the Arab Spring and for dissing Israel.
As usual with Romney, there are plenty of complaints about current policy and nothing but boilerplate talk with no specifics about what his foreign policy prescriptions would be. For instance:
By failing to maintain the elements of our influence and by stepping away from our allies, President Obama has heightened the prospect of conflict and instability. He does not understand that an American policy that lacks resolve can provoke aggression and encourage disorder. [...]
In this period of uncertainty, we need to apply a coherent strategy of supporting our partners in the Middle East—that is, both governments and individuals who share our values.
Not one word about how he would have handled the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain or Syria differently. We do hear that he would be nicer to Israel. Most specifically when it comes to Israeli concerns about Iran, In Romney's views, as molded by senior adviser Dan Senor, that means following lockstep with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's views demanding that the White House draw a "red line" regarding Tehran's alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.
This means restoring our credibility with Iran. When we say an Iranian nuclear-weapons capability—and the regional instability that comes with it—is unacceptable, the ayatollahs must be made to believe us.
How specifically this last would be accomplished in a way that Obama has not done is left to our imaginations. Actually, given the advisers Romney has aboard his campaign team—men and women who have long been down with bombing Iran—nothing is left to the imagination. Comply or die is the message here. That is, give up uranium enrichment program or else.
Whether Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon is a point of contention among many people well-acquainted with Iran's nuclear program. Iran's leaders claim it is solely for peaceful purposes. But even many who believe that Iran is on the nuclear weapons path argue that bombing Iran's nuclear facilities—aside from the moral and international legal issues—likely contains a plethora of bad consequences, including the deaths of thousands of people, perhaps tens of thousands, in addition to the Iranians who would be killed. Such an attack would also not likely end Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons if it is doing so, only slow it down. And yet Romney apparently has no worries about the Middle Eastern chaos produced by such a move.
Everything we know about Romney's foreign policy views points to someone far out of his depth, with a two-dimensional view of the world embedded in an embarrassingly shallow version of American exceptionalism. And that is just what we know, which isn't much given Romney's failure to provide the necessary details. What it seems to amount to is an unrestrained, uninformed approach that is mostly balled fists and a do-you-f'n-know-who-we-are approach to diplomacy.
Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 09:18 AM PDT.