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Probing for a weakness to exploit, Mitt Romney’s campaign has turned to attacking President Obama on U.S. policy in the Middle East.  Romney claims U.S. leadership is lacking in the region, and that U.S. interests are suffering as a result. He points to recent outbreaks of extremist Islamic anti-American sentiments in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world, and to civilians being slaughtered by the Assad regime in Syria, as evidence of U.S. impotence in the region. He blusters on Iran, insinuating that the Obama administration has withheld support from our stalwart ally Israel, while failing to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Mitt Romney argues that the Middle East is not how we would like it to be, and offers that as an indictment of Obama, but fails to make the case for how he would make it better. Romney’s proscriptions open onto worse scenarios. His policies could push us from the frying pan to the fire.

On Iran Romney offers absolutely nothing new, but that hasn’t stopped him from criticizing the President. Is he opposed to the harsh sanctions that the U.S. has led much of the world to imposing on Iran? Of course not, since they represent the only overt means available to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, short of forceful military actions that our own Pentagon acknowledges would likely lead the U.S. into another major regional war. Does Romney advocate taking the U.S. into another Middle East war? Of course not, because the American electorate is not prepared to support that currently. It’s clear that both the President and his challenger support covert actions against Iran, but by definition they can’t really be debated. There isn’t an inch of daylight between Romney and Obama on their stated positions toward Iran, so instead Romney tries to attack Obama on how those positions are stated.

A Romney spokesperson interviewed by Andrea Mitchell acknowledged that Obama and Romney are backing the exact same policy toward Iran regarding nuclear weapons; prevention not containment. President Obama publicly asked Mitt Romney recently if he was now arguing for going to war with Iran, but his spokesman ducked and covered rather than answering. Romney, he said, believes that the potential use of American military force against Iran must remain a credible threat in order for diplomacy to hopefully succeed. That of course is consistent with the stated policy of the U.S. government, with the President clearly stating that “all options remain on the table” whenever he is asked about the possible use of force against Iran. So what does that leave Romney with as a political line of attack against Obama?

Romney’s spokesperson argued that no one really believes that Obama actually means it when he says all options remain on the table. Pause here for full implications to sink in. Barack Obama holds the office of President of the United States. His words are official U.S. policy, and America’s friends and foes alike weigh them while determining their own course of action during international conflicts. Surely by now Mitt Romney understands that not only is Barack Obama the United States President today, there is at least a decent chance he will remain our President for four more years. If Mitt Romney believes that the possible use of American force against Iran during this nuclear crisis must remain a credible threat in order for diplomacy to succeed, then his campaign just undermined the very policy he claims we should pursue. Romney’s position is incoherent. But it doesn’t stop there.

Mitt Romney argues that American leadership is lacking in the Middle East. He also belittles Obama for the naiveté he supposedly showed for starting his first term in office showing a willingness to negotiate directly with Iran over issues outstanding between our nations.  In doing so Romney displays a key ignorance over how American diplomacy works. President Obama’s oft stated willingness to deal in good faith with Iran, if that good faith were reciprocated, was a crucial factor in gaining international support for strong economic sanctions against Iran. The U.S. can’t force sovereign nations to back economic sanctions against Iran, they must agree to. Had President Obama pursued a bolted door policy toward Iran from day one, it would have been far more difficult, and in some significant instances impossible, for him to have won broad based international support for the economic sanctions now in place against Iran.

So here again Romney’s position is incoherent. The sanctions policy that Romney says he supports against Iran, was enabled by Obama first making an effort “to give peace a chance” before moving on to harsher alternative when Iran failed to respond positively.  Mitt Romney’s anti-diplomacy tough guy posturing only undercuts his own stated diplomatic policy objectives in building a broad coalition against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  

There is nowhere that Mitt Romney’s Middle East policy is more obviously incoherent than it is in regards to current unrest in the region, and the Arab Spring. If there is one word that Mitt Romney loves to elevate above all others during this campaign season, that word is “freedom”. Freedom he says is the well spring of human progress. Freedom is afoot in the Middle East but it seldom comes in an antiseptic package. Our own American road toward greater freedom has not been free of strife. Basic rights have been fought over in America since a Revolution gave birth to our nation. Why would the path be smooth in Libya, Syria, or Egypt?

Romney’s foreign policy team is dominated by Neo Con ideologues who were in ascendancy under George W. Bush. Ridding the Arab world of dictatorships was a cause they heartedly embraced, not only as a noble cause, but as a tenet of U.S. foreign policy in pursuit of U.S. interests. The lack of liberty in the Middle East, they intoned, fed unrest on the Arab street and pushed frustrated youth into the hands of Islamic militants who blamed the West for the ills of their own corrupt societies.

The American invasion of Iraq was defended by Neo Cons as a mission to help bring Democracy to the Arab world (especially after weapons of mass destruction inside Iraq were found to be sorely lacking). What followed that invasion was chaos and bloodshed on a scale that totally dwarfs anything that has happened in Libya or Syria to date. Our invasion further inflamed Islamic extremists throughout the Muslim world. The Democracy we left behind in Iraq is seriously flawed by any standard we would use here at home. Yet Mitt Romney will not disown it, nor argue that the people of Iraq were better off under an iron fisted dictator.

Anti-American protests broke out in Iraq as well in response to the Anti-Muslim propaganda film that recently was produced in the United States. Iraq is also on warm terms with its Shiite neighbor, our adversary Iran.  Still as with Egypt, Mitt Romney won’t characterize Iraq as an enemy of America. America was resolute in fighting the Iraq war. How much more leadership, how much more strength, how much more money and how many more lives should America have committed to bring about results that still would be no better than the Arab Spring?

Compare what was accomplished in Iraq after ten plus years of American occupation, to the situation that confronts us in Libya and Egypt today, less than two years after dictatorships were replaced by democracies in those nations. Would there be less anti-American sentiments in those nations today if the United States had fought to thwart the Arab Spring that brought increased liberty to those people? Would we have more leverage in Egypt now had we stuck by Hosni Mubarak until he was lynched, or until Egypt dissolved into a Civil War like Syria’s?

The Obama Administration rightfully recognized a turning tide of history inside the Middle East, and wisely chose not to rage against it to no avail. As a result we still have open and even productive channels with the governments the Arab Spring spawned, imperfect as they might be. That was not a preordained outcome in a revolutionary climate. It took effective American leadership to accomplish. We all saw what happened to Iran when the U.S. clung to the Shah far too long until the Iranian people deposed him.

Mitt Romney bemoans that we don’t retain enough influence over Egypt’s current government, while simultaneously lamenting the fact that Egypt’s first free democratic elections resulted in a Muslim Brotherhood President. That position, once more, is fundamentally incoherent. Unless Mitt Romney is prepared to advocate for yet another American Middle East invasion, it is dubious that bad mouthing the current elected Egyptian government will lead to greater U.S. influence inside Egypt.

Israel is counting on Egypt to honor their mutual peace treaty in turbulent times; Mitt Romney might want to reconsider the advantage of Egypt having a government that is credible with non extremist Islamists, which the U.S. retains real ties with. Mubarak, like Iran’s Shah before him, isn’t coming back. Israel won’t be helped by demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood, and America wouldn’t win respect under a Mitt Romney

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Comment Preferences

  •  Rmoney hasn't been elected but he is damaging (0+ / 0-)

    diplomacy and international relations by giving hope to Americas enemies like Al Q. Putin is joyous at his stupidity because it gave him a way to not be persuaded. What a jackass. We cannot afford endless wars either in national wealth which Rmoney does not want to contribute to or in the lives which he regards as unimportant.

    Before he started with this crap I disliked him but now I positively despise the man. Are all CEOs such sociopathic smirkers who don't value either the nation that created thier chance to steal from its workers and those who  pay a fair share (the middle class)? Is his religion just assumed  to be genuine because he pays his tithes in hopes of a planet full of women to impregnate to feed his ego? Does he have any scruples or follow any morals that he will not break for his profit?

    The sooner this election is over and the sooner this piece of shit is put out to pasture the better off we all will be... Even those riled up haters who would vote for this prick.

    How can you tell when Rmoney is lying? His lips are moving. Fear is the Mind Killer

    by boophus on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 05:27:25 PM PDT

    •  I've known CEO's (and Mormons)... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...far more decent than this man. His willingness to say anything to gain power is very disturbing. And dangerous.

      •  I know, I know but he makes me doubt perceived (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tom Rinaldo, Olympia

        decency. Harry Reid is one of the nicest men in politics. I Know, I know but this Willy is the worst... I just want this over... it was bad when Palin was running but this one could take the country down and then go live somewhere with all the wealth he stole.

        How can you tell when Rmoney is lying? His lips are moving. Fear is the Mind Killer

        by boophus on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 05:36:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Like always, criticize Obama, say he has a (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hotdamn, Tom Rinaldo

    better plan, but wait until after he is elected to reveal what those wonderful world altering plans are.

    •  Hey, Romney said (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that the devil is in the details, but the angel is in the policy.
      Because that's precisely what a douchenozzle would say.

      "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." -Benjamin Franklin

      by hotdamn on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 05:57:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Absolutely (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      His plan is always to claim that he has a plan. Oh yeah, and to oppose everything that most voters agree is bad. Romney is good at that too.

      He supports Israel and opposes Iran and wishes that Egypt was more compliant. That I suppose is supposed to pass for a policy.

  •  Iran desperately needs alternative energy. (0+ / 0-)

    Tehran is becoming unlivable.

    "Unbreathable" is how Shaygan described the air quality in Iran's smog-shrouded capital these days. He'll get no argument from worried city officials.

    For the third workday in two weeks, Tehran was effectively shut down Thursday because of "unhealthy" pollution levels. Government offices, schools, banks, factories and many other sites were ordered closed to try keep the eye-stinging cloud from growing any worse.

    More here:

    This, as it stands, is unacceptable.
    What other short-term solution do they have if they eschew nuclear power?

    "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." -Benjamin Franklin

    by hotdamn on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 05:47:36 PM PDT

    •  That is bad, real bad (0+ / 0-)

      I knew that China was awash in pollution, I didn't realize that Iran was also.

    •  Nuclear power (0+ / 0-)

      Will not rid Tehran of smog.  

      This is mostly auto exhaust and is the same problem LA and other arid cities surrounded by mountains have.

      And the Huff article says as much.

      A spell of bad air is nothing new for Tehran, home to more than 12 million people and seemingly round-the-clock traffic jams of more than 3 million cars and buses. One of the urban landmarks in central Tehran is a giant air quality gauge.
      How will nuclear power lessen smog in Tehran?

      If Iran wanted to go green they would invest in thermal solar.

      They have the right sunny/arid climate to support it.

      "And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue; They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space" Khalil Gibran

      by bcdelta on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 07:08:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As for this Diary (0+ / 0-)

    Not seeing solid foreign policy out of Romney or Obama.

    As you noted Mitt hasn't shared his thoughts in meaningful detail.  Although he's over the top on Iran in that I think he's too eager to start a war.

    I like Obama's idea of letting the sanctions work, but his North African policy is abysmal.

    And there's nothing easy about about the region.

    Libya was an oil play -not human rights.

    Egypt - unwise to not support Mubarak.  The fix was cheaper food and the cost of the US subsidizing this is  a rounding error in comparison to the entire region going to war.

    It's fine to say "hey let Egypt put whomever they want in," but the consequences of such might be very bad war - not good for Egyptians or anyone else.

    Morsi gets in and needs to reconsider Camp David.  How does starting up with Israel make food cheaper?

    "And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue; They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space" Khalil Gibran

    by bcdelta on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 07:19:52 PM PDT

    •  Egypt was not about food prices (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      angry marmot

      Were rising food prices a detriment to Muburak maintaining power? Yes. But the people in the streets weren't there because of food prices, they were there because of the lack of opportunity, the overwhelming corruption, and the oppressive nature of Mubarak's regime.

      And Libya was about Oil? That's why the same companies (internationals) are working the same fields under largely the same contracts that they were pre-revolution? We were already in Libya drilling under Gaddafi, Bush had done that. We didn't need to support the revolution to get their oil. In fact, supporting the revolution disrupted the flow of Libyan oil, which is only slowly coming back.

      Do you support Mitt Romney? Why not, if you think that Oligarchs and Dictators are fine for the MENA countries, than they should be good enough for us.

      •  Food Prices (0+ / 0-)

        Food got too expensive and the average person couldn't afford to buy enough food.  Add to this the global financial crisis weakened their currency so both food and oil spiked.

        I agree that people didn't like the oppression, lack of opportunity or corruption; but food was the trigger.

        Longer term one has to cultivate more food internally for domestic consumption.

        Be back to you on Libya in a little bit.

        "And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue; They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space" Khalil Gibran

        by bcdelta on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 05:33:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Libya (0+ / 0-)

        Issue with Libya was Kadafi mentioned nationalizing oil in 09.

        Even though oil was flowing this reduces profits.

        Don't like dictators or oligarchs.  The goal should be fair commerce with maximum participation + democratic govt.

        But the devil is always in the details and sometimes when a strongman goes you just get another one.

        I hope this is not the case - time will tell.

        My point is the additionally instability caused by Libya and Egypt is driving the entire region towards war.

        And if war comes it won't be nice and the Spring then will have been a Pyrrhic victory.

        We don't live in a perfect world.

        What are we to do about Syria?

        And then one has West Africa and the Congo.

        We don't have the money to fix everything.

        As per Romney - he frightens me.  Obama has the right policy on Iran - let the sanctions work.  As per Mitt's North African policy - no idea what it is.

        "And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue; They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space" Khalil Gibran

        by bcdelta on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 06:14:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  American Revolution (0+ / 0-)

    I follow your thought process on the American Revolution, but don't think it's the same thing.

    The US as it is today was a mix of Dutch, English, French and Spanish imperial interests.

    So we got tired of all the revenue being sucked out by England in the 13 colonies + no say in the matter.

    France had economic reasons to support us against England.

    So the idea that it was just us against England with no other influence isn't accurate.

    One also must consider that our Revolution did not have the ability to light the entire region on fire.  The weapons technology was far too primitive.

    The current day Middle East has a lot of oil and was already unstable before the Arab Spring.

    Since the Spring it is incredibly more unstable something to which we have added by going into Libya and not supporting Mubarak.

    Unclear where Egypt and Libya will head.  I very much support fair govts. here, but that doesn't mean one will get it.

    Time will tell.

    What's going on in Syria is terrible and I would love to see fair govt. here, but when Assad does fall who will be in power, will there be a power struggle, civil war, etc.?

    Good chance Turkey will get dragged in as well outside of any other issue in the region given the border and PKK.

    Given our involvement in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan - unclear we can do much about Syria.

    Radical Islam has it's roots in poverty and the lack of basic necessities/edu that comes with it.

    The fix is fair commerce with maximum participation and clipping a strongman may or may not get you there.

    And doing so now is very risky given regional tensions.

    With Iran in play I would have supported Mubarak and not touched Libya.

    And Iraq is a great example of how difficult nation building is.

    I think saying democracy exists in Libya or Egypt is a big stretch.

    Libya is very volatile and Morsi seems intent on establishing nothing that looks like a democracy to me and he may bring war to Egypt given his misgivings on Israel.

    Again - if you care about your people why start up with your neighbor?  Get the economy stable and food prices down - the reason for revolution in the first place.

    The propaganda film was an excuse to stir the pot.  What happened in Libya was well planned in advance.

    The Shah got booted as he mismanaged the economy and tried to modernize it too quickly.  The Mullahs have big economic problems now so let's hope the sanctions bring domestic change.

    Your article seems to heavily echo the admins talking points - the election is close - I get it, but what is occurring on the ground is far different.

    "And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue; They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space" Khalil Gibran

    by bcdelta on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 08:05:16 PM PDT

    •  Democracy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tom Rinaldo

      What has Morsi done that is undemocratic? I'm not saying he is perfect, or that I love the idea of him being Egypt's president. But let's hear where he is trampling on democracy. Perhaps I have missed it.

      And the American Revolution did set the entire region on fire. See

      The American Revolution's success was a key factor (not the only, but a major one) in a cascade of revolutions that changed world politics and power balance in a major way.

      Or do you mean literally set the region on fire? There's only one combatant who could literally set the region on fire, and so far not a single Arab government has done anything to attack them since the "Arab Spring" started, though they seem very intent on starting a war themselves.

      •  With Morsi (0+ / 0-)

        It remains to be seen.  He doesn't seem to be a fan of women though - half the population.

        Unclear how one can say democracy exists if half the population is not represented.

        French Revolution - populace couldn't afford food = bad management of the economy.  This was coming with or without the US revolution.

        Now I admit the American Revolution may have inspired them.

        And certainly when Tunisia went it inspired others in the region.

        As per Israel, they are freaked out with Iran's comments and the prospect of being attacked, but you're right that Likud is intent on war when many in Israel including intel/military are not.

        The Palestinian issue is far from fixed, but most Middle Eastern nations do not care for the Palestinians as they would have one believe rather use them as a foil to detract from their own domestic mismanagement.

        Setting the region on fire - I mean war.  Cities bombed, etc.

        And with our weapons tech a lot of people can be killed.

        I don't like war.

        "And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue; They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space" Khalil Gibran

        by bcdelta on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 06:27:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Sorry but i have little time now to reply (0+ / 0-)

      I will just say that the American Revolution helped to destabilize Europe also, hastening the French Revolution and the eclipse of monarchies etc. And the American Revolution was very far from ideal, only white male landowners could vote and slavery remained "legal". One way or another radical change was coming to the Middle East. The era of dictatorships there is passing.

      •  Fair enough (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tom Rinaldo

        I would prefer so much change would not come at the same time, but it is what it is.

        But it's all for naught if we get regional war that collapses the global economy and drags the big powers in.

        Agreed the monarchies were outdated and ending, but this was coming with or without the American Revolution.

        And perhaps you're right that the Arab Spring was inevitable as well.

        So we need to be very careful about how we proceed and keep everyone calm to avoid a hasty rush into further war.

        "And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue; They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space" Khalil Gibran

        by bcdelta on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 06:31:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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