Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Romney's foreign policy naievité

Romney said he wouldn't have tracked down Bin Ladin before he said he would have. He said ordering the raid--deep within the territory of a sovereign nation and a putative ally as well--was a no-brainer. He said that "even Jimmy Carter would have done it." Jimmy Carter, a former naval officer who served with distinction and personal bravery (in the aftermath of a nuclear reactor meltdown), and who ordered a raid just as daring as the one President Obama ordered, but which tragically failed.

All of this betrays not just ignorance of the complexities of decisions like the one President Obama made a year ago, but also the casual contempt many Republican tribalists show for anything any Democrat ever did or was. And turning the attempt to rescue our diplomatic staff from Iran's Islamofascists into a laugh line was contemptible. This by someone who complained that President Obama was making political hay out of killing Bin Ladin.

But I can understand Romney's distress. The Republican brand is founded upon the notion that Republican presidents are brave in war while Democrats are weak and indecisive. (Which is also why Romney alludes to the President's "apology tour" after taking office, while he was trying to somehow deal with the damage President Bush did to America's interests abroad during the mini-Dark Age of his presidency.)

Pretty much everything Romney has said about foreign affairs has been childishly chest-beating and simplistic. Not to mention letting it be known that as president he'd simply let Benjamin Netanyahu dictate our Mideast policy. Being a friend of Israel does not equate with doing that. Many would argue just the opposite, in fact. Though constantly saber-rattling at Iran does raise the price of gas, which helps his election chances.

So would Romney have made the same decision as President Obama. What he said without the genius of hindsight is that he wouldn't have okayed the hard work of many people that even made the decision possible, and he still seems oblivious to the fact that we didn't know for sure that he was there, or how well he'd be defended, or whether we should have just sent in a cruise missile--which was Bob Gates' recommendation.

When voting for president, far above the particularities of partisan politics, we have to ask ourselves whether the guy gets it--understands how profoundly difficult the job is. This dwarfs the difficulty of business decisions where fortunes may be at stake but rarely lives...and a nation's future.

We don't have to guess at how President Obama would do if we part the veil of partisanship and look at what he's actually done--had those Somali pirates killed; had Bin Ladin killed; had most of Al Qaeda's top leadership killed via UAV; did as much as could be done in Afghanistan, and in all cases did what he said he'd do. Anyone who calls this guy "weak and indecisive" is leading a rich fantasy life.

I'm not saying he always does everything right--just that he takes the job seriously and is as much of a proper Commander in Chief as any president we've had since Eisenhower. Probably more.

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