Romney's latest makeover: Foreign policy

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We saw a preview of what to expect when Gov. Romney addressed the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) last Monday. He managed to provide few answers and raise many questions in his attempt at resetting his foreign policy blunders. His speech at the VMI was loaded with contradictions and inaccuracies.  Even more astonishing is the degree to which Gov. Romney assumed the same position as President Obama on key issues and simultaneously attacked the president for those same policies.

He criticized the president’s timeline on transitioning security responsibilities to Afghans while saying he would pursue the same course. “And in Afghanistan, I will pursue a real and successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014,” Mr. Romney said. He suggested that America needs to get more involved in the civil war in Syria, but offered no details as to how. Likewise on Iran, taking us to war without articulating to what end is apparently candidate Romney’s only agenda. Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan was equally short on specifics and full of misleading statements in last week’s debate when he continued the effort to distance Gov. Romney from past follies. 

Representative Ryan repeated nearly word for word the flawed propositions of his running mate. Both men have suggested, for example, that the President is somehow anti-Israel. The facts, however, are in strong contrast to this self-serving claim. What’s shoddier, last May Gov. Romney, when he thought most of us would never hear his remarks, said what he really thinks about the Israel/Palestine peace process; at a private fundraiser he expressed half-hearted support and skepticism that the long standing effort could succeed. In contrast, the Obama Administration has been steadfastly committed to the difficult process, managed the largest increase in aid and military cooperation with Israel, and overseen the strongest increase in sanctions against Iran’s nuclear aspirations. The Obama Administration stopped an anti-Israel resolution on Israel’s settlement policies by using its first United Nations (UN) Security Council veto to that end. The administration has worked closely with the European Union (EU) to tighten Iran Sanctions; EU member states announced today new and stronger sanctions. Meanwhile, Gov. Romney labels efforts to work within the UN structure and multilaterally as signs of weakness despite critical successes. Leaving us to wonder if his real position is a throwback to the Bush go it alone strategy. Can America afford that again?  

By suggesting that “only a new president will bring the chance to begin anew,” Gov. Romney wants Americans to believe that he has a grand global vision, but what we have seen is delusionary not visionary. A view that bifurcates the world into simplistic and anachronistic us vs. them, west against east themes is bizarre at best and dangerous at worst. Gov. Romney’s longing for cold war enemies where they no longer exist is the kind of thinking that allows him to elevate Russia rather than al Qaeda as our “number one geopolitical foe.” We will hear more blustering tonight, and likely a continuation of the politicizing of the recent terrorist attack in Benghazi that resulted in the loss of American lives. None of the distortions will change what the research continues to indicate: most Americans soundly reject the kind of isolationism, war mongering, and go-it-alone stance that is at the heart of Gov. Romney’s foreign policy pitch. We have been down that road before and it did nothing to advance U.S. security or geopolitical standing.       

Meeks is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.