Mitt Romney speaks like a neocon, but is he one?
In his response to the anti-US violence in the Muslim world, and in comments on the Mideast and China, Mitt Romney sounds like a neocon. But some analysts say his policies would be more centrist.
Mitt Romney has preferred to keep to economic issues in his presidential campaign, but when he has turned to foreign policy he’s revealed the influence of the muscular, with-us-or-against-us neoconservative thinking that waxed strong in the George W. Bush administration.Skip to next paragraph
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That was true last week when Governor Romney excoriated President Obama for what he said was a weak and apologetic response to anti-American violence in the Middle East. It came through again Tuesday in the video that surfaced with Romney telling donors in Florida that the Palestinians “have no interest whatsoever” in peace.
“We’re seeing in Romney’s pronouncements the strain of the Vulcans, the extremist form of vulcanism together with the evangelical position on Israel,” says Geoffrey Kemp, a foreign policy expert at Washington’s Center for the National Interest, a realist think tank. “It’s very, very unlike the Republican foreign policy we knew before George W. Bush.”
The Vulcans refers to the foreign-policy team that candidate Bush assembled and that continued to advise him in his presidency after the 9/11 attacks and that in particular prodded him to wage a war of choice in Iraq that was supposed to result in a reformed and pro-American Middle East.
The neoconservatives’ unapologetic approach to the world and America’s role in it – criticized as shoot first and consider the consequences later – was thought by many foreign policy experts to have suffered a humiliating fall over the US invasion and occupation of Iraq.
But Romney’s foreign policy pronouncements suggest not only that the neocons are back, but that – when compared with the traditional multilateral internationalism exemplified by the first President Bush – they are in the driver’s seat.
“People like [former secretary of state] James Baker and George H. W. Bush must be very troubled by what they are hearing,” says Mr. Kemp, who served in the White House under President Reagan. “They can’t help but feel that their brand of American foreign policy is not what they’re hearing from the Republican candidate.”
One of Romney’s chief foreign policy advisers is Dan Senor, who hails from the Bush Iraq war team. Mr. Senor has also been assigned to polishing vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s foreign policy credentials, and some foreign policy analysts insist that the voice of the Iraq war enthusiast could be heard in Mr. Ryan’s assault last week on the Obama foreign policy for its lack of “moral clarity” and “firmness of purpose.”