Ari Berman at the Nation takes a look at just who’s advising Mitt Romney on foreign policy.
It’s a veritable right-wing freak show.
Of Romney’s forty identified foreign policy advisers, more than 70 percent worked for Bush. Many hail from the neoconservative wing of the party, were enthusiastic backers of the Iraq War and are proponents of a US or Israeli attack on Iran.
First, there’s John Bolton, Bush’s insane ambassador to the UN, followed by these names (and deeds) you’ll remember:
Romney’s team is notable for including Bush aides tarnished by the Iraq fiasco: Robert Joseph, the National Security Council official who inserted the infamous “sixteen words” in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union message claiming that Iraq had tried to buy enriched uranium from Niger; Dan Senor, former spokesman for the hapless Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremer in Iraq; and Eric Edelman, a top official at the Pentagon under Bush. “I can’t name a single Romney foreign policy adviser who believes the Iraq War was a mistake,” says Cato’s Preble. “Two-thirds of the American people do believe the Iraq War was a mistake. So he has willingly chosen to align himself with that one-third of the population right out of the gate.”
Shortly after McCain’s 2008 defeat, Kagan, Edelman, Senor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol launched the Foreign Policy Initiative, a neocon successor to PNAC. FPI’s mission has been to keep the Bush doctrine alive in the Obama era—supporting a troop increase in Afghanistan and opposing a 2014 withdrawal; advocating a 20,000-troop residual force in Iraq; backing a military strike and/or regime change in Iran; promoting military intervention in Syria; urging a more confrontational posture toward Russia; and opposing cuts in military spending. Three of FPI’s four board members are advising Romney.
Edelman, having worked for Dick Cheney in both Bush administrations, is Romney’s link to Cheneyworld. (Edelman suggested to Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, the idea of leaking the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame to undermine former ambassador Joe Wilson for his New York Times op-ed detailing the Bush administration’s falsified Iraq-Niger connection.)
It’s a long piece, and worth a read. Here’s one of Ari’s general conclusions:
The hardliners on Romney’s team have sidelined moderates like Mitchell Reiss, the candidate’s principal foreign policy adviser in 2008 and former director of policy planning at the State Department under Colin Powell. In December Romney disavowed Reiss’s call to negotiate with the Taliban, pledging to defeat the insurgency militarily (which few foreign policy experts believe is realistic) and criticizing the Obama administration’s plan to begin withdrawing troops next year. Romney also sided with the likes of Senor over Reiss by backing the Bush surge in Iraq and Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan. This black-and-white worldview is dangerously myopic, obsessed with military power and evil foes while ignoring complex challenges like Europe’s economic crisis and the Arab Spring. Romney and his chief advisers “see the world through a cold war prism that is totally out of touch with the realities of the twenty-first century,” Vice President Joe Biden said recently in a major foreign policy speech.
Romney’s case for election rests on his credentials as a competent businessman who can restructure the economy and government. Yet his choice of foreign policy advisers undercuts that sales pitch by elevating radical ideologues who want to spend profligately on unnecessary weapons and wars. If Romney wants to run a fiscally prudent and well-managed country, his GOP model should be Eisenhower, not Bush. But someone like Ike would never make it through a Republican primary today.
And there’s the rub. You can’t make it through the GOP primary nowadays unless you’re a neanderthal. So Romney veered to the far right these past six years, hoping to get the nomination, and now that he has it he’s saddled with so many far-right advisers, and so many far-right statements he’s already made, that he’s painted himself into a rather bellicose corner.
To his credit, if you can call it that, Romney is also the most disingenuous political to run for national office in a long time. So there’s still a chance, on any given day, that Romney will be painting yellow smiley faces on tanks than he’ll be invading Iran and Syria (though maybe he’ll do both).
But in foreign policy, probably even more than domestic policy, you need some continuity, some predictability. Our allies and our enemies need to know that they can count on, and/or fear, America when the time is right. With Mitt Romney, policy in general is a coin flip, and foreign policy in particular is about opportunism.
None of it is about making the world a better place. It’s only about making Mitt Romney president. If the latter happens, don’t expect the former.