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Date: 2024-05-27 Page is: DBtxt003.php txt00003274

Country USA
Politics 2012 ... Romney and foreign policy

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times on Romney as the Foreign Relations Fumbler

Burgess COMMENTARY
In this Op-Ed, Nicholas Kristof is quite soft on Romney and his total lack of foreign policy competence.

Few people in the media talk about the way most of the world is happy to be rid of the Bush / Cheney / Rumsfeld / Rice quartet. While it was appropriate to take up a strong position on 'terror'. making a hot war of it was probably not the best way to go. Going into Iraq was wrong on many grounds ... but the quartet didn't care.

While President Obama has not been perfect, his willingness to have dialog is welcomed by people around the world ... and Secretary of State Clinton is an incredibly able person in that role who has not only complemented the Obama friendship initiative but enhanced it.

The US media ... especially the right wing media ... things that military bluster is power. They are wrong. America's ideas and America's ideals are the power of the USA. America's friendship and the friendship of Americans is of more value in the modern world than trillions of dollars of militaty hardware. I am not against 'having a big stick' but the world will be well off if this stick is never deployed.

Ghandi did not use guns ... Martin Luther King did not use violence ... Mandella did not have an army. Obama has tried, in my view, to give the USA a chance to be powerful through peace ... and also to be prosperous through peace.

Romney is being mis-guided by a community of neo-con foreign policy advisers. This is another good reason for making sure Romney does not get elected to be the President of the UDSA.
Peter Burgess

The Foreign Relations Fumbler

DIPLOMACY is a minefield, and Mitt Romney spent the last week blowing up his foreign policy credentials to be president. He raised doubts about his capacity to deal with global crises, and we were left hoping that if that 3 a.m. call ever went to him, he’d have set up call forwarding.

The essential problem is that every time Romney touches foreign policy, he breaks things. He went on a friendly trip to Britain — the easiest possible test for a candidate, akin to rolling off a log — and endeared himself by questioning London’s readiness to host the Olympic Games. In the resulting firestorm, one newspaper, The Sun, denounced “Mitt the Twit.”

(Imagine a President Romney making a London trip and helpfully offering off-the-cuff advice on Northern Ireland, or breaking the ice in Parliament by telling jokes about Queen Elizabeth. The War of 1812 would resume, and the British would again be burning down the White House.)

Then there was the Romney trip to Israel, where he insulted Palestinians and left some Jews uncomfortable with stereotyping by praising Jewish culture in the context of making money. Hmm.

After that trip, you’d have thought that on foreign policy, Romney might remember the adage: Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Yet with the Middle East exploding in recent days because of a video insulting the Prophet Muhammad, Romney dived in with a statement that hit a trifecta: it was erroneous, inflammatory and offensive.

Still, I was initially in a forgiving mood. Presidential candidates always have microphones in their faces, and it’s not surprising that periodically they say inane things. President Obama himself blew it a few days ago by mistakenly asserting that we didn’t consider Egypt an ally. But Obama then had the good sense to have the White House clarify that “not an ally” in that context meant “an ally.”

If Romney had similarly explained that in denouncing Obama he was actually praising the administration, the episode might have blown over. But after a night of sleep, he doubled down and repeated his denunciation of the president. That was just reckless.

(Romney also underscored his ignorance by referring to the “embassy” in Benghazi, Libya. Embassies are in capitals, so it was a consulate that was attacked in Benghazi.)

Perhaps the Romney campaign should invest in a muzzle for its candidate. It might even be tax-deductible!

Foreign policy isn’t as glamorous as it seems. Diplomacy mostly consists of managing crazies who are making unreasonable demands in impossible situations with no solutions. And those are just our allies.

In the Middle East, the basic dynamic is that extremists on one side empower extremists on the other. Thus anti-Muslim extremists released a video that Salafi Muslim extremists then publicized to provoke grass-roots outrage that would benefit them.

It’s too bad that Salafis weren’t as indignant about the massacre of Syrians and Sudanese as about the trailer of a movie that may not even exist. As a parody Twitter account of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, posted: “Wow! Good thing I just bombed mosques, killed women and children and I didn’t make an anti-Muslim video! People would be after me!”

The Republican Party is caught in a civil war on foreign policy, and Romney refuses to pick sides. In contrast to his approach on the economy, he just doesn’t seem to have thought much about global issues. My hunch is that for secretary of state he would pick a steady hand, like Robert Zoellick, but Romney has also surrounded himself with volatile neocons.

With China, Romney seems intent on a trade war. In the Middle East, it appears he’d like to subcontract foreign policy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu recently tried to push the United States to adopt a nuclear red line that, if Iran crossed it, would lead us to go to war there. Obama was right to resist, and it has been unseemly for Romney to side with a foreign leader in spats with the United States.

(For my part, I think Obama should indeed set a red line — warning Netanyahu to stop interfering in American elections.)

Most dangerous of all is Romney’s policy on Iran, which can’t be dismissed as an offhand misstatement. As my colleagues David E. Sanger and Ashley Parker note, Romney muddles his own position on his nuclear red line for Iran. Plenty of candidates don’t write their own foreign policy position papers, but Romney is unusual in that he seems not to have even read his.

According to clarifications from Romney’s campaign, he apparently would order a military strike before Iran even acquired a bomb, simply when it was getting close. For anyone who has actually seen a battlefield, that’s a blithe, too-light embrace of a path to yet another war. It’s emblematic of a candidate who, on foreign policy, appears an empty shell.

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