As McCain and Rice Prepare To Speak, The Reviews Are Already In On Romney's Foreign Policy
“Lightweight,” “Trigger-happy,” “Reckless,” “A Mystery,” “Borders on the Embarrassing,” “An Enigma,” “Doubts About His Readiness,” “None of Us Could Quite Figure Out What He Was Advocating,” “Come on, Mitt – Think!” “Not Ready for Prime Time.”
President Obama’s strong record on national security issues is clear. What’s not clear is how Mitt Romney would keep our country safe, confront our enemies, or handle our alliances. Throughout this campaign, Romney has offered a lot of reckless bluster and vague platitudes, but he’s failed to outline specific national security policies. Will Senator McCain, former Secretary Rice, or any other Romney supporters shed light on his plans tonight? If the first night of the Republican Convention is any indication, it’s doubtful. Mitt Romney’s running to be Commander-in-Chief, and his relentless criticism of a President who has an undeniably strong record on national security – without putting forth any ideas of his own – just isn’t going to cut it. The American people – and our men and women in uniform – deserve more.
The New York Times // David Sanger
May 12, 2012
It was just one example of what Mr. Romney’s advisers call a perplexing pattern: Dozens of subtle position papers flow through the candidate’s policy shop and yet seem to have little influence on Mr. Romney’s hawkish-sounding pronouncements, on everything from war to nuclear proliferation to the trade-offs in dealing with China. In the Afghanistan case, “none of us could quite figure out what he was advocating,” one of Mr. Romney’s advisers said. … But what has struck both his advisers and outside Republicans is that in his effort to secure the nomination, Mr. Romney’s public comments have usually rejected mainstream Republican orthodoxy. They sound more like the talking points of the neoconservatives — the “Bolton faction,” as insiders call the group led by John Bolton, the former ambassador to the United Nations … Curiously for a Republican candidate with virtually no foreign policy record, Mr. Romney has made little effort to court the old-timers of Republican internationalism, from the former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft to the former secretaries of state James A. Baker III, George P. Shultz and even the grandmaster of realism, Henry A. Kissinger. And in seeking to define himself in opposition to President Obama, Mr. Romney has openly rejected positions that George W. Bush came around to in his humbler second term.
On foreign policy, an enigma
Washington Post // David Ignatius
August 24, 2012
Other than his support for Israel and rhetorical shots at Russia and China, it’s a mystery what Romney thinks about major international issues and where he would take the country. Is Romney a neoconservative who has an idealistic vision of America transforming the world through military power and advocacy of democracy? You get that impression from some of his speeches and position papers, and from the role of such neocons as Dan Senor among his close advisers. … One prominent neocon who is sympathetic to Romney…thinks that his foreign policy has been little more than “opposition research,” so far. “Romney has done nothing to present a coherent foreign policy,” this supporter told me, with the campaign preferring a “drive-by shooting of Obama,” based on a caricatured image of the president as a left-wing, antiwar liberal that hasn’t been accurate since 2008. … His pledge to declare China a foreign-currency manipulator on his first day in office, for example, would break with decades of GOP policy and might launch a trade war. His criticism of Obama’s alleged weakness on Iran, Syria and Afghanistan ignores the reality that, for a war-weary country, keeping America out of another conflict is politically popular.
The Angry Lightweight
ForeignPolicy.com // Michael Cohen
July 31, 2012
What is surprising, however, about Romney's foreign-policy performance is not simply the belligerence directed against Obama -- but in fact his belligerence to the rest of the world. Indeed, it's difficult to remember a presidential candidate so prone to publicly attacking other countries. For example, while U.S.-relations with Russia remain rocky (but certainly better than they were four years ago) Romney significantly -- and needlessly -- upped the ante by calling Moscow, America's "No. 1 geopolitical foe." Bashing China is hardly unheard of on the campaign trail, but Romney has been brazen in his criticisms, calling Beijing a "currency manipulator," a "cheater," and "ruthless" in its domestic policies, language hardly appropriate for a candidate who six months from now might have to sit down and work with the Chinese leadership…Campaigns are certainly not immune from political clichés, particularly on foreign policy, but Romney's lack of policy specificity borders on the embarrassing. Saying you'll do better than the other guy might get applause in the political cheap seats, but it's not a foreign-policy position -- and it's not the sort of approach that befits someone who wants to be president of the United States.
Mitt Romney flunks his foreign-policy tryout
Boston Globe // Nicholas Burns
August 2, 2012
Governor Mitt Romney had a chance to demonstrate on his trip to Great Britain, Israel, and Poland that he is ready to take on the duties of America’s top diplomat and commander in chief — among the presidency’s most vital responsibilities. Yet for reasons that are hard to understand, Romney undermined himself through surprising lapses in judgment and careless rhetoric, and he failed to articulate his core beliefs on international policy. Far from building confidence in his foreign-policy credentials, the trip actually fueled doubts about his readiness to lead in the most complex and dangerous international environment in a generation.
Candidates Hammer Obama Over Iran, but Approaches Differ Little
The New York Times // Helene Cooper
March 5, 2012
To rein in Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, Mitt Romney says he would conduct naval exercises in the Persian Gulf to remind Iran of American military might. He would try to ratchet up Security Council sanctions on Iran, targeting its Revolutionary Guards, and the country’s central bank and other financial institutions. And if Russia and China do not go along, he says, the United States should team up with other willing governments to put such punitive measures in place. As it turns out, that amounts to what President Obama is doing. … R. Nicholas Burns, the State Department’s top Iran negotiator under President Bush, said: “The attacks on Obama basically say, ‘He’s weak and we’re strong.’ But when you look at the specifics, you don’t see any difference.”
Some G.O.P. Foreign Policy Experts Are Tepid on Romney
The New York Times // Richard A. Oppel Jr.
May 30, 2012
As Republican leaders fell in behind Mr. Romney this spring, many members of the party’s foreign policy establishment have been more muted. Reluctance by this group to come forward for Mr. Romney more quickly reflects an unease over some of his positions, including his hard line on Russia and opposition to a new missile treaty. … But some nevertheless believe that Mr. Romney has taken approaches too confrontational or too hawkish, or worry that harsh campaign-trail statements could hurt later diplomatic efforts and may signal a drift toward neoconservative passions as the party seeks to take back the White House, say Republicans familiar with the discussions. … Colin L. Powell, who preceded Ms. Rice as Mr. Bush’s secretary of state but backed Mr. Obama in 2008, has expressed concerns about neoconservative sway within the Romney camp. Some foreign policy advisers for Mr. Romney, he said, “are quite far to the right.” He has also taken strong issue with Mr. Romney’s statement that Russia is our “No. 1 geopolitical foe.” “Come on, Mitt — think. It isn’t the case,” Mr. Powell said last week on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” adding that Mr. Romney’s remarks had caught “a lot of heck from the more regular G.O.P. foreign affairs community.”
President Criticizes Romney Over Foreign Policy
The New York Times // Helene Cooper and Richard A. Oppel Jr.
July 24, 2012
With Mr. Romney scheduled to speak here on Tuesday and then leave Wednesday on a trip to Britain, Israel and Poland, Mr. Obama used his appearance before the veterans group to paint his rival as a national security neophyte with a dangerous affinity for failed policies of the past. Taking on Mr. Romney’s Afghanistan stance, in which he has criticized Mr. Obama for announcing a timetable for withdrawal and said that he would listen to his military commanders before deciding anything, Mr. Obama said: “When you’re commander in chief, you owe the troops a plan. You owe the country a plan.” He added: “That includes recognizing not just how to begin wars but how to end them.” The Obama campaign has, for several weeks now, tried to connect Mr. Romney and what it has characterized as a trigger-happy willingness to go to war, a critique that could be damaging if it manages to stick, since Americans have grown war-weary after a decade of combat. “One of the few foreign policy specifics Romney has outlined so far is his opposition to” the timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan, said Michelle Flournoy, an Obama campaign national security adviser, during a conference call with reporters to talk about, among other things, Mr. Romney’s upcoming meeting in London with Prime Minister David Cameron. “So the question I have is whether Romney will double down on his opposition to the plan to end the war when he meets with the prime minister later this week.” … “I think Mitt Romney owes it to the American people to say where he stands on these important issues as he’s trying out to be leader of the free world,” said Robert Gibbs, the president’s former press secretary, before beginning a lengthy discussion about how much more substantive Mr. Obama’s 2008 foreign trip was in comparison with Mr. Romney’s itinerary.
Slate // Fred Kaplan
August 1, 2012
This leads to another, more vital question that the Romney trip raises: Does the candidate believe the things he says? Has he thought through their implications? Or is he simply pandering to the audience of the moment? In other words, is he shallow, or is he cynical? It’s an important question for someone who’s campaigning hard to be president. Romney took this trip to pass a fairly simple test: to demonstrate a bedrock comfort and competence on the world stage. He failed that test, so he should at least be clear about another trait worth knowing about a presidential candidate: his beliefs. In Romney’s case, it’s still a mystery what they are. … First, on many issues, Romney has articulated no views at all, except contradictory ones. He has criticized Obama for withdrawing prematurely from Afghanistan, but has also said he’d abide by the same 2014 deadline (which NATO set at Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s request). He has blamed Obama for causing “the Arab winter” (as he calls it), but hasn’t explained how he would have handled the uprisings differently or controlled their outcomes any better. (Would he have bolstered Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Egypt? Funneled more aid to the rebels? In either case, how, and to what end?) Second, there are many crucial issues on which the two disagree profoundly. Romney has denounced Russia as America’s “number-one geopolitical foe” and assailed the New START arms-reduction treaty as a danger to national security. U.S.-Russian relations aren’t without their tensions, but the realms of cooperation opened up by Obama’s “reset” policy—on trade, counterterrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, Iranian sanctions, among others—are well worth preserving. Romney has said he would declare China to be a “currency manipulator,” which could well unleash a trade war that we cannot afford … So in comparing Romney’s foreign policy to Obama’s, a more accurate formulation might be: They’re the same, except when Romney’s is more reckless or mysterious. Not a good bumper sticker.
Experts Say Romney’s Defense Plan Doesn’t Add Up
Defense News // Kate Brannan
June 17, 2012
“If you put all of the promises together, it doesn’t all add up,” said Todd Harrison, a senior fellow for defense budget studies at the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. … For Harrison, setting defense spending at 4 percent of GDP isn’t helpful because it’s an arbitrary standard, he said. … “What you spend on defense really should be a function of your security needs, and what you think the threat environment is and what you think you need to protect the country,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a formula based on the size of your economy.”
Too Much Baggage
Foreign Policy // David Rothkopf
Campaigns, like presidents, face 3 a.m. phone calls, too. In the weeks ahead, a major overseas development or more than one could demand a quick, thoughtful reaction that will be seen as a measure of Romney's ability to lead. … This not-so-excellent adventure proved it: Romney's foreign-policy team is not ready for prime time. They're floundering, and with less than 100 days to go in the campaign, the Republican candidate has only a few short weeks to make the changes needed to avoid another series of screw-ups that could cost him the presidency or, worse, set him, us, and the world up for a sequence of much more serious problems were he actually to be elected.