Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush’s secretary of state, gave the big foreign policy address at the GOP convention. American Exceptionalism and American values played a central role in that administration’s approach to the Middle East. To what extent is Bush foreign policy a model for Romney? What does he believe were the advantages and disadvantages of the Bush approach?
“Only strength and clarity can keep the peace,” Romney said in his Sept. 29 podcast. That sounds a lot like the post-9/11 call for a foreign policy built on “military strength and moral clarity” issued by the Project for the New American Century, the neoconservative group widely credited with influencing Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.
Which raises the obvious question: How will a Romney administration demonstrate “strength and clarity” without getting the US bogged down in another costly war?
Some other topics worth probing:
THE ARAB SPRING: We Americans tend to see the world in black and white: Good guys and bad guys, white hats and black hats. But the Middle East is full of shades of gray. Witness Egypt. Romney is committed to using “the full spectrum of our soft power to encourage liberty and opportunity for those who have too long known only corruption and oppression.” So does that mean he will support the Muslim Brotherhood-led government, duly elected to replace the oppressive Mubarak regime, or seek to undermine it?
In the three countries where the old regimes have been overthrown—Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya—the Romney campaign white paper says, “Mitt will make available technical assistance to governments and transitional bodies to promote democracy, good governance, and sound financial management.” It would be interesting to know how that is different from USAID and other US government assistance programs already under way—and how his plans would be affected by the significant cuts to US foreign assistance advocated by his running mate, Paul Ryan.
SYRIA: In his foreign policy speech at Virginia Military Academy, Romney said he will “identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets.” Does that include surface-to-air missiles? If so, how will he ensure they are not used against Israeli or US civilian aircraft now or later? How will he identify those groups that “share our values?” How will he keep the new weapons out of the hands of those who do not? Ronald Reagan called those fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan the moral equivalent of America’s founding fathers. Today, we call some of them the Taliban. How will Romney avoid similar blowback if he arms the Syrian opposition?
TURKEY: Should the recent Syrian attack on Turkish soil trigger a NATO military response? And would he encourage Turkey to intervene as a US surrogate (Turkey was the colonial master in the Arab world until World War I).
An oft-repeated Romney campaign talking point in recent weeks is that Obama is “naïve” about the danger of Islamists coming to power in the region. How will that affect America’s alliance with Turkey, given its Islamist prime minister? (Turkey is often cited as a model for the region’s emerging democracies).
IRAN: In the last election, John McCain was videotaped singing “Bomb, Bomb, Iran.” Short of that idea, what does Romney think he can do to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon that is not already being done? Or does he intend to “Bomb, Bomb Iran” (or encourage Israel to do so)? And if there is an attack on Iran, what does he see as the potential repercussions?
AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN: The Romney campaign’s policy paper on Afghanistan and Pakistan states that “The United States enjoys significant leverage over both of these nations. We should not be shy about using it.”