It’s not worth the time and effort to list all the cons and falsehoods in Mitt Romney’s big foreign policy speech – I have better things to do, as do you – so instead I’ll narrow my focus to the most noxious passages.
We all know by now that Romney knows virtually nothing about international issues, and that whatever he regurgitates is merely the product of whatever material his foreign policy advisers insert in his head on any given day. Worse yet, his advisers are warring among themselves; the influential George W. Bush neoconservative retreads (heaven help us) are fighting with the non-neocons for control of Mitt’s aforementioned head, and the result is mostly incoherent, with Romney beating his chest in a show of hawkish bellicosity but saying little of substance. The rest of the time, he’s either lying or exposing his ignorance.
For instance, he said in his Virginia Military Institute speech that he would be a real tough guy with respect to Iran. In order to keep Iran from going nuclear, “I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have.” Which sounds swell, until you realize that his proposed strategy mirrors what President Obama has already been doing; indeed, Obama’s ever-tightening sanctions have put the squeeze on Iran’s economy and currency. Romney also said that he’d station U.S. aircraft carriers near Iran; Obama did that already, during the summer. Whatever Romney would actually do differently, he doesn’t say. But he does insist that if he’d been president in 2009, he would’ve reacted to the Iranian street protests more forcefully than Obama did; in his Romney’s words, “When millions of Iranians took to the streets in June of 2009, when they demanded freedom from a cruel regime that threatens the world, when they cried out, ‘Are you with us, or are you with them?’ – the American president was silent.”
That line exposes his ignorance of Foreign Policy 101 – or, more specifically, the Iranian culture. If Obama had publicly sided with the protest movement, the protest movement would’ve lost credibility inside Iran. It would have been instantly branded as an American front group; its leaders would have been denounced by the government – and by anti-American Iranians generally – as puppets of Uncle Sam. But Romney apparently knows little about the reality-based nuances. More to the point, the neocons who gave him that stance tend to be people who prioritize American bluster.
Elsewhere in the speech, the passages about Iraq were a real hoot. This one, for instance: “America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence.” Romney and his team are truly gifted in their ability to pack multiple deceptions into a single sentence. For starters, the withdrawal was not “abrupt.” The withdrawal was negotiated years ago, and formalized in an agreement signed by both the U.S. and the Iraqi regime: “All U.S. forces are to withdraw from all Iraqi territory, water, and airspace no later than the 31st of December of 2011.”
And, oh, did I mention that this agreement was negotiated and signed in November ’08 – by George W. Bush? I thought you should know that, because Romney somehow forgot to mention it. Romney insisted, however, that Obama could’ve found a way to keep some U.S. troops in Iraq, but “failed” to do so. In truth, the sovereign Iraqi regime insisted that the deal be fully enforced and that all U.S. troops be sent home. How would Romney have persuaded the regime to permit some residual U.S. troops? He offered nary a clue.
Elsewhere in the speech, this was my favorite Romney lie: “I will roll back President Obama’s deep and arbitrary cuts to our national defense that would devastate our military.” In truth, Obama’s so-called “deep and arbitrary cuts” are merely the worst-case scenarios, as written into the summer ’11 congressional budget deal. A bipartisan budget deal. A bipartisan budget deal that the Republicans signed onto.
But Mitt’s best material was about Afghanistan, the site of a U.S. war that Romney failed to mention in his convention acceptance speech. Five sentences yesterday at least constitutes progress:
“In Afghanistan I’ll pursue a real and successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014. President Obama would have you believe that anyone who disagrees with his decisions in Afghanistan is arguing for endless war. But the route to war and to potential attacks here at home is a politically timed retreat that abandons the Afghan people to the same extremists who ravaged their country and used it to launch the attacks of 9/11. I’ll evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the best advice of our military commanders. And I will affirm that my duty is not to protect my political prospects but to protect the security of the nation.”
Wow, where to begin….Romney says he wants to “pursue a real and successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014” – which sounds awfully familiar, because Obama is currently pursuing a real and successful transition to the Afghan security forces by the end of 2014. Hamid Karzai, the Afghan leader, wants the same thing. And NATO wants the same thing. What Romney calls “a politically timed retreat” is basically official NATO policy.
And if Romney is really hinting that he might want to stay longer in Afghanistan for U.S. “security” purposes (he seems like he might be, unless he’s not), then that would contradict what he said during a GOP debate in June ’11, when he sounded downright dovish. Back then, he said that U.S. troops “shouldn’t go off and try to fight a war of independence for another nation.” So what does he really believe about Afghanistan? On any given day, only his foreign policy advisers know for sure. (By the way, you’ve got to love the last Afghanistan sentence: “I will affirm that my duty is not to protect my political prospects but to protect the security of the nation” – which insinuates that Obama has no interest in protecting our security.)
Bottom line: Romney is truly fortunate that most voters in 2012 care little about foreign policy. He can ill afford close scrutiny.
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