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May 05, 2012

Sorry Gov. Romney, the Foreign Policy Bar Has Been Raised
Posted by David Shorr

01Romney on flight_deck

This isn't a statement about how great Obama foreign policy is -- though I happen to think the policy's been awfully good. Instead I want to highlight an important trend trend in the politics of foreign policy. In a welcome development, campaign rhetoric increasingly is being held to a more rigorous standard.

Just taking pot shots no longer counts as a foreign policy platform; a campaign has to put its alternative on the table. As a result, the Romney camp will keep running into variants of the following: "Okay smart guys [and gals], what would you do?"

The old political adage says that parties out of power are free of the responsibilities of governing -- the nitty gritty of trade-offs and consequences. Seems to me, though, that the 2012 foreign policy debate is being brought down to earth. Through hard-won experience, the country has learned that knee-jerk toughness doesn't magically whip others into line, and rash military action can stir up more unintended consequences than intended ones.

That's why the Romney campaign has gained scant credit for its Iran position. The specifics are nitpicks rather than real differences with President Obama's efforts -- on some points the Romney position is actually identical to the administration's. And with only a half-hearted (and one-sided) passing reference to a peaceful solution, it leaves the distinct impression that Romney is poised for war with Iran.

The issue of oil prices is an even better sign that the foreign policy debate is, to quote a favorite source, "back in the garage with our bull**** detector." The flip side of the phony argument tying high gas prices to slack domestic drilling is a real driver of higher oil costs: worry over war in Iran. We've seen more news reports highlighting how fluctuation in the price per barrel tracks with war fears. There has even been news coverage noting that Republicans get a political "two-fer" here -- their saber rattling gives them gas price increases they can blame on the president.

And then there was the drama over Chen Guangcheng this past week. Even Bill Kristol understood better than the Romney campaign the folly of second-guessing the Obama administration's efforts in a fast-moving situation. But to get a really thorough treatment of Romney's craven response, read this Center for American Progress piece from Nina Hachigian and our own Jacob Stokes. 

Photo: US Navy



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