Voice

An apology and a question for Mitt Romney

It appears that I owe Mitt Romney a partial apology.  In yesterday's blog post I quoted from a video procured by Mother Jones' David Corn regarding Romney's perspective on the peace process between Israel and Palestine.  The tape suggested that Romney had zero hope for peace.  As Politico's Dylan Byers notes, however, the unedited version of the tape contained the following passage right after Romney had said that an ex-Secretary of State had told him that there was a prospect for a settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis after the Palestinian elections.  After Romney said he didn't "delve" into it, he then added the following:   

But I always keep open: the idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up to get the Palestinians to act is the worst idea in the world. We have done that time and time and time again. It does not work. So the only answer is show them strength. American strength, American resolve, and the Palestinians will some day reach the point where they want peace more than we’re trying to force peace on them. Then it’s worth having the discussion. So until then, it’s just wishful thinking (emphasis added).

OK, so it would appear that Romney does proffer a way of getting the two sides to talk.  My deepest apologies to Governor Romney for only printing the part of the statement that Mother Jones initially released. 

And yet... I have anothert question now.  I fear that Romney's "more resolve" strategy -- a theme he's echoed since making these comments in May -- raises more questions than answers. 

For exhibit A, let's go to the Financial Times' Najmeh Bozorgmehr, who interviewed Speaker of the Iranian Parliament (and possible future PM) Ali Larijani.   Here's what he had to say to Bozorgmehr about Mitt Romney: 

Military action against Iran would be “highly costly” for the US and threats issued by Mitt Romney as he tries to become the next American president are campaign rhetoric only and can be largely ignored, Ali Larijani, Speaker of the Iranian parliament, has told the FT.

Mr Romney has sought to portray himself as much tougher on Iran than President Barack Obama and more sympathetic to Israel’s concerns. But Mr Larijani is unimpressed, saying the Republican candidate has the “little bit of wisdom” needed to understand the consequences of waging war on the Islamic Republic.

So it would seem that Mr. Larijani doubts Romney's strength and resolve.  This is a problem. Romney's Theory of Statecraft seems to be that all U.S. problems in the world can be soled with Extra-Strength Resolve and Strength.  Now, even one accepts this premise, the failure of adversaries to believe Romney's promises means he's gonna have to display even more Extra-Strength Resolve and Strength to convince people that he is being strong... and resolute. 

The thing is, though, even Romney's allies doubt his strength and resolve... at least, they doubt his strength and resolve with respect to his China policy

Mitt Romney is hoping his tough talk on China policy will win him votes — but few of his big business donors or fellow Republicans support what he’s saying or believe he’d follow through if elected.

And if he did, many analysts say, he’d likely spark a disastrous and counter-productive trade war that would hurt both American consumers and the workers he says he’s trying to protect....

An actual Romney policy, many corporate executives believe, would have the same kind of focus on bringing cases before the World Trade Organization and negotiating behind closed doors — the same approach of Obama and George W. Bush.

“On his first day on the job, Romney is not going to put himself on the immediate defensive with the world’s second largest economy,” said one top financial industry executive who strongly supports Romney....

Romney hopes his tougher words will make Obama look weak. But the question remains whether Romney’s tough talk is just that: talk.

“It’s kind of a head scratcher,” said the senior financial services executive who supports Romney but questions his China policy. “Is this just rhetoric or is this really the view of the candidate?”

Now, to be fair, it's not just Romney supporters who don't believe Romney's resolve on China.  A Bloomberg Global Poll of  847 "decision makers in finance, markets and economics" showed that 82% of respondents were skeptical that Romney would designate China as a currency manipulator, for example. 

So we have a presidential candidate who thinks the way to get things done is to show resolve -- but neither his allies nor his adversaries believe Romney's own resolve.  Which leads to the following question:  is it possible that there is simply no amount of Extra-Strength Resolve and Strength that will allow Romney to bend the rest of the world to his will?  And if that's the case, what's his fallback option? 

Daniel W. Drezner

Oh, Mitt.....

So yesterday David Corn at Mother Jones made some waves when he released a video of Mitt Romney locking up the Ayn Rand Institute's vote explaining that he had no chance of winning the  "47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government."

Well, this morning, the foreign policy shoe dropped from the Romney video.  Here's the excerpt of Romney musing about the two-state situation for Israel and Palestine: 

I'm torn by two perspectives in this regard. One is the one which I've had for some time, which is that the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish. Now why do I say that? Some might say, well, let's let the Palestinians have the West Bank, and have security, and set up a separate nation for the Palestinians. And then come a couple of thorny questions. And I don't have a map here to look at the geography, but the border between Israel and the West Bank is obviously right there, right next to Tel Aviv, which is the financial capital, the industrial capital of Israel, the center of Israel. It's—what the border would be? Maybe seven miles from Tel Aviv to what would be the West Bank…The other side of the West Bank, the other side of what would be this new Palestinian state would either be Syria at one point, or Jordan. And of course the Iranians would want to do through the West Bank exactly what they did through Lebanon, what they did near Gaza. Which is that the Iranians would want to bring missiles and armament into the West Bank and potentially threaten Israel. So Israel of course would have to say, "That can't happen. We've got to keep the Iranians from bringing weaponry into the West Bank." Well, that means that—who? The Israelis are going to patrol the border between Jordan, Syria, and this new Palestinian nation? Well, the Palestinians would say, "Uh, no way! We're an independent country. You can't, you know, guard our border with other Arab nations." And now how about the airport? How about flying into this Palestinian nation? Are we gonna allow military aircraft to come in and weaponry to come in? And if not, who's going to keep it from coming in? Well, the Israelis. Well, the Palestinians are gonna say, "We're not an independent nation if Israel is able to come in and tell us what can land in our airport." These are problems—these are very hard to solve, all right? And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say, "There's just no way." And so what you do is you say, "You move things along the best way you can." You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem. We live with that in China and Taiwan. All right, we have a potentially volatile situation but we sort of live with it, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it. We don't go to war to try and resolve it imminently. On the other hand, I got a call from a former secretary of state. I won't mention which one it was, but this individual said to me, you know, I think there's a prospect for a settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis after the Palestinian elections. I said, "Really?" And, you know, his answer was, "Yes, I think there's some prospect." And I didn't delve into it (emphasis added).

Well, I'm tired of Mother Jones having all of the video exclusives!!  Here's my exclusive of how one Middle East expert responded to Romney's explanation: 

So I'm not a Middle East expert, but I do know a few things: 

1)  Neither all Palestinians not their leaders in the West Bank are committed to the destruction of Israael;

2)  Whatever contours a possible Palestinian state would have, it won't border Syria

3)  One of the best critiques that a GOP challenger can make of Barack Obama's administration is that he's made a hash of the Israeli/Palestinian peace process.  In this video, Romney pretty much revealed that he wouldn't be changing that policy anytime soon. 

David Brooks, in responding to the first part of the Romney video, concluded that Romney "really doesn't know much about the country he inhabits."  Unfortunately, with this video, Romney has demonstrated that the doesn't know that much about the world he inhabits either.

We've had a week where riots in the Middle East have raged against the United States, NATO's Afghanistan policy seems to be falling apart, and China seems bound and determined to foment crises in the Pacific Rim.  A smart presidential candidate could find a lot of material to criticize the Obama administration on foreign policy.  Instead we have a GOP nominee that can't manage his own campaign, much less deep thoughts on geopolitics. 

So if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna be doing a double face-palm for the rest of today.