Romney is long on criticism, short on substance
September 21, 2012
In the wake of the anti-American riots in the Muslim world, we are going to hear some important debates in the next couple of months about our foreign policy post-Arab Spring. There are two conflicting visions: Support of democratic-leaning moderates or a militarily-aggressive America to be feared.
Per a recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, former Vice President Cheney’s daughter Liz wrote “In too many parts of the world, America is no longer viewed as … an enemy to be feared.” The GOP talking point is that President Obama is a weak leader and that we should make our military more powerful. More powerful to do what? The kind of leadership Romney promises is mostly bluster, with little difference with the Obama administration in proposed actions.
Times have changed since Dick Cheney was in office post-9/11. The tactics of invasion and occupation the Bush administration applied to Iraq and Afghanistan unintentionally defined the limits of American power in spite of every ounce of blood and treasure we could pour into the conflicts. The results were the longest wars in our history, a huge national debt, the staggering casualties to our military, and a question of whether whatever progress we have made in those countries will stick. The war-weary American people will not sacrifice in order to conduct another war. The rest of the world knows that, too, and no fear mongering bluster to the contrary will fool anyone.
It is not that Obama does not use fear tactics. He just made them more surgical with the use of drones, special forces, and better human intelligence. While the drone attacks have angered many in the Arab world , at least there is less death of innocent people and less cost in blood and money.
Since the Arab spring, the U.S. has been riding a nearly out-of-control tiger. The Arab street now controls their own destiny and their democratically elected leaders are still finding their way. Military threats worked with dictators depending on U.S. support, but bullying tactics breed only more anger among the masses who do not think strategically. There is also a power struggle between extremists and more moderate elements. U.S. support of oppressors in the past still feeds longstanding rage. Arab anger over unchanging U.S. policy toward Israel will linger until there is a solution, but many have not yet credited the supportive role of the U.S. in unhorsing their dictators.
President Obama demonstrated leadership these past couple of weeks. Romney blundered as he tried to turn a U.S. security crisis into a partisan political talking point and later had the gall to say that if he had been president, these attacks on embassies would not have happened. How so? Drop a few drones on the demonstrators; light the tinder box of Arab anger with bluster? Threaten to invade their countries if they ever let such events happen again? Of course not. He was, as usual, long on criticism and short on what he would do differently.
Instead, both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the President used the events as teaching moments about the values fundamental to U.S. democracy: The President picked up the phone and called Egypt’s President Morsi, reminding him that his failure to protect our embassy and to hold back the demonstrators jeopardized whether we regarded him as an ally. By the next day, the demonstrators were moved back, the Muslim Brotherhood called for peaceful demonstrations and the embassy was protected.