By Jonathan Easley - 10/01/12 12:02 PM EDT
Mitt Romney ripped President Obama over foreign policy in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Monday, saying Obama’s policies have “heightened the prospect of conflict and instability” in the Middle East.
Romney pointed to the Syrian government’s violent response to a civilian uprising, the newly installed Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt, the murder of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, protests at U.S. embassies throughout the Middle East and Iran’s continued pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
“These developments are not, as President Obama says, mere ‘bumps in the road,' ” Romney wrote. “They are major issues that put our security at risk.”
Obama made the “bumps” statement during in an interview last Sunday on “60 Minutes” that was part of a larger discussion of whether recent events had provoked him to rethink his support for some of the newly formed governments to arise out of the Arab Spring.
“I think it was absolutely the right thing for us to do to align ourselves with democracy, universal rights, a notion that people have to be able to participate in their own governance,” Obama said. “But I was pretty certain and continue to be pretty certain that there are going to be bumps in the road because, you know, in a lot of these places, the one organizing principle has been Islam.”
The remarks, though, have provided fodder for the Romney campaign’s efforts to highlight policy differences between the two candidates, and go after one of Obama’s strengths on foreign policy.
The president consistently polls higher than Romney on foreign-policy matters, but the violent anti-American protests that rocked the region, and the White House’s handling of and messaging surrounding the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, have brought renewed attention to the president’s policies.
“In recent years, President Obama has allowed our leadership to atrophy,” Romney continues in the op-ed. “Our economy is stuck in a ‘recovery’ that barely deserves the name. Our national debt has risen to record levels. Our military, tested by a decade of war, is facing devastating cuts thanks to the budgetary games played by the White House. Finally, our values have been misapplied — and misunderstood — by a president who thinks that weakness will win favor with our adversaries.”
Republicans say the president’s policies have abandoned American allies following misguided attempts at outreach to hostile regimes.
On Russia, Obama’s critics contend that the Iranian government continues to pursue a nuclear weapon with the intention of wiping out Israel, a U.S. ally, and have pressed the president to draw a clear “red line” on Iran’s nuclear program.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly pressed the administration to clarify a red line with respect to stopping Iran. The dispute over Iran policy between the two allies has taken a center spot in the campaign, with Romney speaking to Netanyahu last week and criticizing Obama for failing to meet with the Israeli leader when he was in New York for a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.
“By failing to maintain the elements of our influence and by stepping away from our allies, President Obama has heightened the prospect of conflict and instability,” Romney writes in the op-ed. “He does not understand that an American policy that lacks resolve can provoke aggression and encourage disorder.
“When we say an Iranian nuclear-weapons capability — and the regional instability that comes with it — is unacceptable, the ayatollahs must be made to believe us.
“It means placing no daylight between the United States and Israel,” Romney added.
The administration has denied suggestions that it is shunning Netanyahu, and Obama has consistently said that “all options are on the table” when it comes to preventing Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
In a "60 Minutes" interview last month, Obama shot back at Romney’s criticisms over Iran, saying, “If Gov. Romney is suggesting we should start another war, he should say so.”