While the 2012 presidential campaign will likely be defined by the economy, the foreign policy of both President Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney could come into play. The United State’s policy towards Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, a possible military intervention in Syria’s civil war, and the specter of the possibility of defense budget cuts could all be campaign issues. Obama has gone to great lengths to embrace a foreign policy doctrine that would be difficult for Republicans to attack, but what kind of foreign policy vision does Romney have?
Since the Romney campaign has decided to focus nearly exclusively on the economy, the Romney foreign policy team has been reportedly reduced to arguing amongst themselves. According to the Daily Beast, one advisor said that the weekly conference calls were “for people who have an hour in a half of time every week to waste.” The Daily Beast also notes that Romney lacks a senior foreign policy advisor, and compares the collection of Romney foreign policy advisors to the “group of so-called Vulcans who tutored President George W. Bush in 1999 and 2000.” Rise of the Vulcans, written by James Mann, described Bush’s foreign policy team which was led by Condoleezza Rice and included such neoconservatives as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz.
Richard Grenell served as Romney’s foreign policy spokesman for less than a week. The openly gay Grenell resigned under pressure from social conservatives and after being muzzled by the campaign. Grenell was a former aide to John Bolton, the neoconservative who served as an Under Secretary of State and Ambassador to the United Nations during the Bush Administration. Bolton, who endorsed Romney in January, is currently a Senior Fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute.
The candidate himself has been incoherent on foreign policy at times. From calling Russia “without question our number one geopolitical foe” to being unable to articulate a clear policy on the war in Afghanistan, Romney’s foreign policy vision appears mostly ad hoc. During the campaign Romney has only given one foreign policy speech, promising increase spending for the Navy and restoring missile defense cuts made by the Obama Administration. During the Republican debates Romney simply promised to listen to the generals.
Last year when Romney announced his foreign policy team, it included names that were prominent in the Bush Administration. These included former Bush Administration CIA Director Michael Hayden and former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. The Washington Times reported that among Romney’s foreign policy advisors, the “vast majority are known more for their alignment with post-9/11 foreign policy of George W. Bush.” However, apparently the head of the foreign policy team was still in college until Bush’s second term. Alex Wong, writes the policy papers and briefs for Romney, but has no foreign policy experience besides an internship at the United Nations.
Some Republicans are making noise, worried about the foreign policy team. Reuters was told that one Republican is “very concerned about the fact that if Romney needs to call anyone, his instinct is to call the Cheney-ites.” This stable of neoconservatives are descendants from the Vulcans, who pushed America to go to war with Iraq and who now advocate war with Iran. Eliot Cohen was a member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq who pushed for war. Robert Kagan, with fellow neoconservative Bill Kristol, founded the Project For A New American Century (PNAC) also pushed for war.
While Romney might not be articulating a clear foreign policy vision, many of his advisors have a long history of vision of foreign policy that looks a lot like what we saw during the Bush Administration.
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