Romney's superficial world view allows neocons slither back


OPINION:The Republicans’ foreign policy is being driven by the black-and-white neocon perspective

PAUL RYAN has not sauteed in foreign policy in his years on Capitol Hill. The 42-year-old congressman is no Middle East savant; until now his idea of a border dispute has more likely involved Wisconsin and Illinois.

Yet Ryan got up at the Values Voter Summit here in Washington on Friday and skewered the Obama administration as it struggled to manage the Middle East mess left by clumsily mixed US signals toward the Arab spring and the disastrous legacy of war-obsessed Republicans.

Ryan bemoaned “the slaughter of brave dissidents in Syria. Mobs storming American embassies and consulates. Iran four years closer to gaining a nuclear weapon. Israel, the US’s best ally in the region, treated with indifference bordering on contempt by the Obama administration.” US foreign policy, he said, “needs moral clarity and firmness of purpose”.

Ryan was moving his mouth, but the voice was the neoconservative puppet master Dan Senor. The hawkish Mitt Romney adviser has been seconded to manage the running mate and graft a Manichaean world view on to the foreign affairs neophyte.

A moral, muscular foreign policy; a disdain for weakness and diplomacy; a duty to invade and bomb Israel’s neighbours; and a divine right to pre-emption – it’s all ominously familiar.

You can draw a direct line from the hyperpower manifesto of the Project for the New American Century, which the neocons, abetted by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, used to prod an insecure and uninformed president into invading Iraq — a wildly misguided attempt to intimidate Arabs through the shock of overwhelming force. How’s that going for us? After 9/11, the neocons captured one Republican president naive about the world. Now they have captured another would-be Republican president and vice-president, both jejune about the world.

Senor is emblematic of how much trouble America blundered into in the Middle East – trillions wasted, so many lives and limbs lost – because of how little the US fathoms the culture and sectarian politics. We’re still stumbling in the dark. We not only don’t know who our allies and enemies are, we don’t know who our allies’ and enemies’ allies and enemies are.

As spokesman for Paul Bremer during the Iraq occupation, Senor helped perpetrate one of the biggest foreign policy bungles in US history. The clueless desert viceroys summarily disbanded the Iraqi army, forced de-Baathification, stood frozen in denial as thugs looted ministries and museums, deluded themselves about the growing insurgency and misled reporters with their Panglossian scenarios of progress.

“Off the record, Paris is burning,” Senor told a group of reporters a year into the war. “On the record, security and stability are returning to Iraq.”

Before he played ventriloquist to Ryan, Senor did the same for Romney, ratcheting up the candidate’s irresponsible bellicosity on the Middle East. Senor was the key adviser on Romney’s disastrous trip to Israel in July, when Mittens infuriated the Palestinians by making a chuckle-headed claim about their culture. Senor got out over his skis before Romney’s speech in Jerusalem, telling reporters Mitt would say he respected Israel’s right to make a pre-emptive, unilateral attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

While the Muslim world burned on Friday, Mitt was in New York with Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan confessing he wears “as little as possible” to bed. With no global vision or historical perspective – he didn’t even remember during his Tampa convention speech to mention US troops or the years of war his party reigned over – Romney is simply kowtowing to the right again.

Paul Wolfowitz, an Iraq war architect, weighed in, slimily asserting that President Barack Obama should not be allowed to “slither through” without a clear position on Libya.

Republicans are bananas on this one. They blame Obama for casting Hosni Mubarak overboard and contradict themselves by blaming him for not supporting the Arab spring. One minute Romney parrots Binyamin Netanyahu’s position on Iran, the next Obama’s.

Romney’s cynical braying about Obama appeasement in the midst of the attack on the American diplomatic post in Libya and the murder of the brave ambassador Christopher Stevens was shameful. Richard Williamson, a Romney adviser, had the gall to tell the Washington Post, “There’s a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney you’d be in a different situation.” He’s right – a scarier situation. If President Romney acceded to Netanyahu’s outrageous demand for clear red lines on Iran, this global confrontation would be a tiny foretaste of the conflagration to come.

Cheney, described by Romney as a “person of wisdom and judgment,” is lurking. On Monday, he churlishly tried to deny Obama credit for putting Osama bin Laden in the cross-hairs, cattily referring to a report that Obama had not gone to all his intelligence briefings.

Well, yes. George W Bush got briefings, like the one that warned him on August 6th, 2001: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” That didn’t work so well either, did it?

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