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June 01, 2009

Romney Speech Part One: Iraq and Afghanistan
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Mitt Romney spoke today on foreign policy and national security at the Heritage Foundation. It is well documented that Romney has neither credibility nor experience in this area, but as his march towards 2012 continues unabated, he needs to at least feign expertise on overseas issues:

"[The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan] denied Jihadists a base from which they could finance and launch attacks, and eliminated the threat Iraq represented to the region."

Um, except for our own intelligence agencies (and reality) pretty much refute the notion that those wars have denied bases for extremism and in fact, both wars have allowed al Qaeda to reconstitute itself in Afghanistan/Pakistan and create a base of operation in Iraq. From a 2007 Iraq National Intelligence Estimate:

"al-Qaida will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the homeland."

And more recently, terrorism experts Dan Byman and Ken Pollack asserted that “Iraq has fostered a new brand of jihad, providing a place where budding Salafi insurgents gain combat experience and forge lasting bonds that will enable them to work together in the years to come.”

As far as the war in Afghanistan (which now cannot be decoupled from Pakistan) goes, it is well documented that due to neglect from the Bush administration--and its singular focus on Iraq--Afghanistan (and Pakistan) fell by the wayside and allowed al Qaeda to have "reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities." Today the threat from extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan remains as stark as ever:

"Despite the efforts of both Afghan and Pakistani security forces, instability, coupled with the Islamabad brokered cease-fire agreement in effect for the first half of 2007 along the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier, appeared to have provided AQ leadership greater mobility and ability to conduct training and operational planning, particularly that targeting Western Europe and the United States. Numerous senior AQ operatives have been captured or killed, but AQ leaders continued to plot attacks and to cultivate stronger operational connections that radiated outward from Pakistan to affiliates throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe."

And that is just one line from a winding and incoherent speech, which virtually advocates war against both Russia and North Korea. More soon.


I forgot to address something else Romney stated, specifically his assertions regarding the threat from pre-war Iraq. While it is clear that Iraq represented some threat to the region, the extent of that threat was widely disputed within the intelligence community. In fact, in the run up to the war, the intelligence community "did not take steps to clearly characterize changes in Iraq’s threat to regional stability and security, taking account of the fact that its conventional military forces steadily degraded after 1990." More importantly for policy moving forward, the invasion of Iraq both expanded regional instability and has been a driving force behind the emboldening of and increased threat from Iran:

According to a Brookings Report by Ray Takeyh and Suzanne Maloney, because of the instability introduced by the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the country is no longer a “bulwark against Iranian influence,” and “Tehran now has acquired the means to influence all of the region’s security dilemmas.”


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If Romney has "neither credibility nor experience" in the area of military affairs and defense policy, could you please document for me Obama's experience in this area?

I think you are the only left-wing crank who still blathers on about Iraq. The remarkable success of our troops there, under the leadership of President Bush, has silenced everyone else, even Obama.

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