Monday, October 22, 2012

Contrasting Obama & Romney On Foreign Policy: Restraint Versus Bellicosity

There are plenty of reasons why Mitt Romney would be a lousy president, but the biggest is that he is a hothead and a dullard. This was on display when, flying in the face of protocol and common sense, he excoriated President Obama for being soft on terrorism mere hours after the U.S. ambassador to Libya was slain in Bengazi last month. And then did the same thing all over again in the second presidential debate.
Expect a course correction -- or at least a toning down from Romney on Libya -- during the final presidential debate tonight, which will focus on foreign policy, because his attacks have not resonated with voters and focus groups, let alone Honey Boo Boo.  Kind of like that binder filled with women thing.  Or perhaps he'll just try a new line of attack.
Foreign policy is a minefield for Romney to begin and unexpectedly a big positive for Obama.  This is because his administration has shone so brightly in a world that could not be more different than the Cold World with myriad hotspots, while Romney maintains a Cold War view and has been hypnotized by saber-rattling neocons as was George W. Bush with the catastrophic consequence of the Iraq War.  Romney also doesn't have a scintilla of foreign policy experience unless you consider going door-to-door as a Mormon missionary in France as counting. .
To the surprise of the punditocracy, Obama has seized the foreign policy high ground long held by the Republican Party and because of this Romney has not been able to lay a finger on him.
Obama has been able to do in three and three-quarter years what Bush could not do in eight: Destroy the leadership of Al Qaeda, get the last U.S. troops out of Iraq, and assist in toppling two Middle Eastern dictators and the bad guys who had long held Burma hostage. Were it not for the albatross of Afghanistan bequeathed by his predecessor, and bumbled early on by Obama himself, he would pretty much have a clean sweep.
These successes are a result of patient consensus building between the White House, Pentagon and State Department and carefully calibrated responses rather than massive troop deployments. The emphasis has been on multilateralism not unilateralism, and diplomacy over breast beating while avoiding the kind of triumphalism in which the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld axis reveled.
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If there was a pivotal moment in the second debate -- and perhaps the  presidential campaign -- it was when Obama termed "offensive" Romney's accusations that his administration was politicizing the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other diplomats in Bengazi on September 11.  Obama looked presidential; Romney looked cheap.
There was no "Mission Accomplished" moment after the U.S.-led coalition toppled the Qaddafi regime last year, and no American lives had been lost in bringing a tentative sort of democracy to Libya until the deaths of the four. Libyans have been so grateful for Obama's steady if understated role, and God knows the U.S. needs allies in the region, that they took to the streets in protest over the deaths and attacked the Islamic militias thought to be responsible.
Meanwhile, Obama and his allies are playing a patient game over Syria, where the Assad regime has killed tens of thousands of rebels and their families, and disappeared an estimated 30,000 people in what will be a protracted civil war unless there is an effort to try to replicate the Libyan experience, something that would not occur until after Election Day.
Obama was candid going into the war to topple Qaddafi: It had risks and with risks come responsibilities, including an instability that still has not been completely exorcized. A component of Romney' balls-to-the-wall plan for Syria includes, believe it not, arming women and children, a neocon wet dream and recipe for even more bloodshed.
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Iran is likely to dominate tonight's debate, and the prescriptions offered by Obama and Romney to curb the Islamic Republic's nuclear program are starkly different.
Obama has led the international community in advocating tougher sanctions that have exacerbated Iran's economic woes and squeezed the country's emerging middle class, the upshot of which could be negotiations that would save face for the regime while it dials back its nuclear program. Many Middle Eastern analysts see that outcome as increasingly likely, while Teheran said over the weekend that it would agree to post-election talks.  Romney, on the other hand, has said that if elected he would support Israel in air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities that would plunge an already volatile region into full-scale war involving the neighbors of both countries, as well as Hezbollah and Al Qaeda.
Obama has been firm but restrained. And presidential.  He has refused to play politics whether it be Libya, Syria, Iran or anywhere else, while Romney has displayed no restraint, let alone a sense of perspective, good sense and evidence of a steady hand when it comes to these hotspots.
For this reason, Romney is a particularly unattractive choice for a nation that has been at war for 11 years, the longest in its history.  It speaks volumes that unlike Obama, his foreign policy outlook has devolved and not evolved in the six years that he has been running for president.

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ALINA li said...
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