Monday, October 1, 2012

On International Affairs Romney Has Not Yet Even Begun to Fight

This article is published on PJMedia.

By Barry Rubin

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has written an op-ed piece about what’s wrong with President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy and what he would do if he is elected president. There aren’t many surprises but it reminds us how far Romney has to go before he can be said to have articulated a clear foreign policy of his own.

Romney lists five crises in the region that he feels place U.S. security at risk and that are neglected by Obama: the Syrian civil war; Muslim Brotherhood takeover in Egypt; murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya; violent protests at U.S. embassies; and Iran’s continued progress toward having nuclear weapons as it continues to promise to annihilate Israel.

Romney continues: “Yet amid this upheaval, our country seems to be at the mercy of events rather than shaping them. We're not moving them in a direction that protects our people or our allies.” These crises, however, could pull America into serious conflict.

The problem, he says, is that Obama’s policy “has allowed our leadership to atrophy…by a president who thinks that weakness will win favor with our adversaries….[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.”

He criticizes Obama for misreading the “Arab Spring,” moving away from Israel, and lacking sufficient credibility to deter Iran.   He also speaks of “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.”

Romney calls for restoring the strength of America’s economy, military, and values.  “That will require a very different set of policies from those President Obama is pursuing.”
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Such an approach is acceptable for a short op-ed but hardly constitutes a foreign policy strategy. Aside from people noticing on their own that Obama’s policy is disastrous, Romney is going to have to do better if he thinks that the Middle East issue—or any international issue---is going to gain him support.

But what does Romney plan to do on these issues? While some of this can be expected to surface in the debates, he has not yet articulated a serious foreign policy plan with a little more than a month to go before the election. That’s extraordinary.

There are answers about what he should be saying which I have discussed in many previous articles and won’t take your time with now. An inspiring and persuasive alternative to Obama policy could be articulated.

But I am getting the feeling that either his campaign is thin regarding expertise on the Middle East or that those people are not being listened to by those higher up.  It’s understandable that Romney might feel only the economy matters. Yet he is going to have to show that he could be a successful president internationally as well.
The process of doing so has not even begun and it is now late in the campaign.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center  and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.


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