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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.

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It was Senor who orchestrated Romney’s trip to Israel in July – a trip that among other things underscored Romney’s complete abandonment of the American role of peace facilitator that Republican and Democratic administrations alike have cultivated.

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That disregard for the peace process came through even more clearly in the video that surfaced this week, in which Romney says, “I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way.”

The influence of Romney’s neocon advisers was also evident in the candidate’s and his campaign’s blistering attacks on Obama’s response to the anti-American violence that has targeted US interests in the Middle East and across the Muslim world over a video made in the US that denigrates Islam.

Romney accused Obama of sympathizing with the protesters, and his aides suggested that a President Romney would set such a firm, no-apologies-for-American-superiority course that no one would dare attack US interests.

Commenting on the violent attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the death of four US diplomats, including the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, US diplomat and Romney adviser Richard Williamson told the Washington Post, “There’s a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, you’d be in a different situation.”

Yet while Romney’s pronouncements and some of his positions – hints he’d back an Israeli decision to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, and promises to brand China a currency manipulator from Day 1 of his presidency – suggest an aggressive and hawkish foreign policy, some key Romney appointments point in a different direction.

Some political analysts saw in Romney’s naming in August of former World Bank president and Republican foreign policy moderate Robert Zoellick to head his national security transition team the harbinger of a more cautious and multilateral approach to the world.

The Zoellick appointment elicited howls of disdain from conservative foreign policy hardliners, but giving such a key post to a James Baker protégé suggests to some observers that Romney, if elected, would approach the world from a more traditional center.

“If Romney were to be elected president, his foreign policy would probably be quite reasonable because hopefully he’d have people like Zoellick around him,” Kemp says. “You might think from some of the things he’s said that he’d be the president who would attack Iran and slap sanctions on China his first day in office. But my guess is he’d listen to his military establishment, and he’d realize the dire economic straits we’d be in if he started a war in the Middle East.”


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