Mittens has an op ed in the Wall Street Journal called “A New Course for the Middle East” that I made myself read so you wouldn’t have to. Although you can if you like.
Executive Summary: The strategy appears to be that we are going to overwhelm the Middle East with our glorious greatness, and once they fully appreciate how gloriously great we are they will love us and stop misbehaving.
At one point, Mittens writes that he would place “no daylight between the United States and Israel.” That’s as close as he gets to any concrete policy. The rest of it is all verbiage that doesn’t say shit. Writing an article about new Middle East policy without using the words “Afghanistan,” “Iraq,” “troops,” “drones,” or “Islam” may provide a clue how utterly empty this op ed is. It is a mush of platitudes and straw men.
Mittens appears to believe that the United States can control everything that happens in the world if we just want to badly enough, and the fact that people in other countries misbehave is all President Obama’s fault. Typical paragraph:
The first step is to understand how we got here. Since World War II, America has been the leader of the Free World. We’re unique in having earned that role not through conquest but through promoting human rights, free markets and the rule of law. We ally ourselves with like-minded countries, expand prosperity through trade and keep the peace by maintaining a military second to none.
We mostly got to be “leader of the free world” because we were the only major power on the winning side of World War II that wasn’t left in ruins when it was over. And thanks in large part to the economic stimulus provided by government spending on the war, plus postwar programs like the GI bill, our economy was strong and growing while most of Europe and Asia were still struggling to just find their socks and make some breakfast. We were fortunate to have moderately progressive leaders, including Republican ones like Eisehnhower, who respected FDR’s New Deal legacy and who ignored the hotheads who wanted nuclear war with China. We also implemented the Marshall Plan and maintained sensible foreign aid programs even though conservatives grumbled about it. And that’s how we got to be “leader of the free world.” But after the Debacle that was Dubya, it’s hard to say that title has any real meaning any more.
But in recent years, President Obama has allowed our leadership to atrophy. Our economy is stuck in a “recovery” that barely deserves the name. Our national debt has risen to record levels. Our military, tested by a decade of war, is facing devastating cuts thanks to the budgetary games played by the White House. Finally, our values have been misapplied—and misunderstood—by a president who thinks that weakness will win favor with our adversaries.
Mitt Romney seems to think that history jumped from VE Day to the assassination of Ambassador Stevens in Libya with nothing happening in between. He describes President Obama’s policy as afflicted with “incomprehension.” I don’t doubt Mittens doesn’t comprehend it, as there are no tax shelters involved, but fortunately President Obama is a lot smarter than Mittens.
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.
And who would that be, Mitt, except Bibi Netanyahu? And, frankly, I’m not sure many of us over here share Netanyahu’s “values,” whatever they are. The U.S. has a long policy of propping up anti-communist dictators, such as the Shah of Iran — notice how that turned out — and of forming alliances with people who openly are selling us out — think Pervez Musharraf. But when people in other countries win the freedom to finally elect their own choices, they don’t always choose people we might like. Our glorious greatness doesn’t always make an impression, I guess.
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.
And how are you going to do that, Mitt? Send them rotten fish in the mail? Insult their mothers? Threaten them with nuclear war? Don’t ever make threats you aren’t willing to carry out, dude.
It means placing no daylight between the United States and Israel.
And it means using the full spectrum of our soft power to encourage liberty and opportunity for those who have for too long known only corruption and oppression. The dignity of work and the ability to steer the course of their lives are the best alternatives to extremism.
See, Mitt, I don’t think anyone actually disagrees with that. The question is, how will you do it? That’s kind of the catch, son.
But this Middle East policy will be undermined unless we restore the three sinews of our influence: our economic strength, our military strength and the strength of our values. That will require a very different set of policies from those President Obama is pursuing.
One might question the degree to which our “values” ever had much to do with our foreign policy. But I don’t see that President Obama is anti economic or military strength, or that he has no values. And throwing money at the Pentagon to maintain some muscle-bound military prepared to land on Normandy Beach and slog toward Berlin doesn’t necessarily address current military need.
And how is it that this moron was such a success in “business”? Making boatloads of money must not take much in the way of smarts.
Update: See also Paul Waldman, “Foreign Policy Is Hard.”