Do Americans, even in anxious times, prefer an optimistic leader or an angry one?
Which Mitt Romney will we see on foreign policy, if he’s elected? The slightly right of center cautious international consensus builder? Or the reckless neocon sock puppet? These questions have been nagging me for the past couple of months, but I think I’ve found the answer.
It’s much more likely that a Romney Administration will be marked by a belligerent attitude toward the rest of the world—a “my way or the highway” approach that blighted the tenure of the previous Republican to occupy the Oval Office.
Romney did a really good job of posturing as a reasonable guy in the foreign policy debate in order to assure the undecideds that he wasn’t a far-right wacko. On Israel/Palestine and Iran, his approach was virtually indistinguishable from President Obama’s. And he was surprisingly conciliatory on Pakistan, asserting that the United States had to work with the country’s security establishment, in spite of its troubling history.
But there is substantial evidence that he’s going to tack sharply to the right if he gets elected.
Exhibit number one is his scary coterie of foreign policy gurus. John Bolton, Bush’s U.N. ambassador, Dan Senor, Iraq war spokesperson, and Bill Kristol, the neocon superintellectual, form the core.
“Romney’s malleability is an advantage for his neocon advisers, giving them an opportunity to shape his worldview, as they did with Bush after 9/11,” wrote Ari Berman in The Nation in a detailed look at his foreign policy brain trust back in May. “Four years after Bush left office in disgrace, Romney is their best shot to get back in power. If that happens, they’re likely to pursue the same aggressive policies they advocated under Bush.”
As with Bush, this will portend a much more belligerent posture in the Middle East. For starters, it will possibly mean that the United States will go along with Israel’s barely concealed desire to bomb Iran. Of course, a Romney Administration will be completely ill suited to handle the resulting death and destruction. Romney will also be even less sympathetic toward the Palestinians and more openly hostile toward the new democracies in Egypt and Tunisia.
But Romney’s bellicosity will not end there. He will adopt a threatening stance toward Russia and China (as he’s already hinted at during his campaign). He will employ a bullying tone toward those he considers out of line in the U.S. “backyard”—such as Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia. He will be even more wedded to harmful nostrums such as free markets and free trade. And he may continue to divorce himself from reality when it comes to issues like climate change.
After all, what has he got to lose? Robert Matthews at opendemocracy.net makes a convincing case that Romney will be unwilling and unable to govern from a moderate position on international affairs.
“Foreign policy presents an opportunity for Romney to establish himself with the right wing of the party without incurring as much opposition in Congress, the media and public opinion as would be the case when carrying out his fiscal and social program proposals,” he writes. “It is unlikely that he would see any advantage in making his mark as more liberal than he portrayed himself in the campaign in an area where he can more easily acquire conservative credibility and score key bragging points.”
A Mitt Romney in charge will bare his fangs at the rest of the planet. It won’t be a pretty sight to see.
If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of the Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Foreign Policy Consensus in Obama-Romney Debate Depressing."
Follow Amitabh Pal @amitpal on Twitter
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