Monday, August 27, 2012

Mitt Romney's Neoconservatism

James Kitfield has an interesting piece at the National Interest, "Mitt Romney's Neocon Puzzle."

It's a decent piece, although windy, and inaccurate, IMHO, on the public's perception of foreign policy this season (it's not that people don't care about world affairs, but that the economy is the overwhelmingly dominant issue). Here's an interesting bit, however:

In emerging as the Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney vanquished primary opponents representing venerable strains of GOP thinking. Representative Ron Paul, the libertarian from Texas, was the strongest voice for a more isolationist foreign policy. Former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania gave the most authentic voice to the populist nationalism of the Tea Party movement. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich most closely aligned with the neoconservatives who were ascendant in George W. Bush’s first term with their staunch support for the Israeli Right and disdain for talking with distasteful adversaries. Gingrich blasted the Obama administration for being “wrong on Iran, wrong on the Muslim Brotherhood [and] wrong on Hezbollah.” Former governor Jon Huntsman of Utah, former ambassador to China, stood in for the realist or liberal-internationalist wing of the party that dominated the George H. W. Bush administration.

Romney must reconcile these competing camps and weave their various policies and rhetorical positions into a coherent foreign-policy narrative. His task is complicated because the old Republican orthodoxy of staunch anticommunism and a strong defense was upended at the Cold War’s end, and George W. Bush’s Iraq invasion still generates controversy and dissention within the party. Beyond that, there are the added challenges of the country’s deep partisan divide and political dysfunction, as well as a shifting global landscape.
Actually, I don't even think it's fair to call Ron Paul isolationist --- that then becomes a slur against folks who hold traditionally isolationist views without attacking Israel or courting 9/11 truthers (e.g., Eugene Gholz, Daryl Press, and Harvey Sapolsky, "Come Home, America: The Strategy of Restraint in the Face of Temptation").

Not only that, I'd argue Romney's clearly in the neoconservative camp --- it's not really a puzzle to me. Romney's 2010 book, "No Apologies," laid out a fairly standard national greatness foreign policy. I'd have to break out my copy to be more specific (and I may just do that later), but between that and the pool of top neocon advisors working with Team Romney, it's pretty straightforward. Here's the announcement from the campaign, from last November, "MITT ROMNEY ANNOUNCES FOREIGN POLICY AND NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISORY TEAM." I'd point to Eliot Cohen, Robert Kagan, and Dan Senor as some of the more prominent neocons at the announcement, but don't take my word for it. Ari Berman at The Nation just about had a fit over Team Romney's neoconservative bona fides, "Mitt Romney's Neocon War Cabinet."

Berman mentions Ambassador John Bolton as an advisor to Romney, although he's not cited at the campaign's announcement. Bolton has repeatedly rejected the neoconservative label, although that hasn't stopped the left from attacking him mercilessly, at Daily Kos, for example, "Knuckle-dragging ultrahawks dominate Mitt Romney's foreign policy team."

Plus, listen Romney's CBS News interview at the clip above, and at Twitter, "Mitt Romney tells CBS News' Scott Pelley it's "unacceptable" for Iran to get nuclear weapon." That sounds more bellicose than the "evil" George W. Bush administration.

In any case, the question ultimately is whether Romney's foreign policy will be an improvement over the Obama administration's. I'd say that's a no brainer as well, but the proof is in the pudding, so let's hope #RomneyRyan win it in November.