Who will make you safer?
The big news of the past two days is the Romney video that has him dissing 47% of the electorate and giving up on Middle East peace. Where did that famous resolve go? He seems to have channeled it entirely into the “no apology” policy, which apparently applies as much to offensive comments about half the American electorate as it does to killing people by mistake in Pakistan.
This would all be really funny except that it is dead serious. Dismissing the possibility of reaching an Israel/Palestine peace agreement has consequences. The Palestinians will never take Romney seriously as an interlocutor (that is what diplomats call someone they talk to). He’ll be seen, quite rightly, as someone who gained office with massive support from Sheldon Adelson, who actively opposes the two-state solution (the Romney campaign simply fails to mention it).
Whereas it is perfectly obvious that Middle East peace requires American pressure on Israel, Romney says
The idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up to get the Palestinians to act is the worst idea in the world.
There is, in the end, a certain backwards consistency here. If you don’t want to push the Israelis, it is true that you will not get any progress on Middle East peace. But the flip side is also true: no progress on Middle East peace, combined with continuing American support (often military) for autocratic monarchs, leaves the Arab and Muslim worlds alienated and angry. I don’t need to elaborate on the consequences of that.
Romney’s foreign policy campaign has so far sown far more confusion than enlightenment. “Unforced errors” are the leitmotif. Gaffes are commonplace. What he would actually do is unclear. Romney couldn’t even pull off a visit to London without offending the locals by criticizing preparations for what turned out to be spectacularly successful Olympic games.
My colleague Eliot Cohen here at SAIS asks the debatable question, “Are you safer now than you were four years ago?” There is of course no way to answer this question until we know what happens in the next four years. What we know now is that the numbers of Americans succumbing to terrorist attacks worldwide is small (17 in 2011 to be precise). We know that Romney supports the same time schedule for ending the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan as Obama. We know that Obama has put in place the strongest ever American and multilateral sanctions against the Iranian nuclear program, and that Romney agrees with Obama on the objective of preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. We know that Romney has criticized Obama for not acting more vigorously on Syria, but we have no idea what the Republican candidate would actually do as president, because he hasn’t bothered to say.
The real question is whether you will be safer with Obama as president or with Romney as president. Each of us will have to decide. I for one will prefer whoever gives me confidence that he has the interests of all Americans at heart, not just the 53% of them whose votes he covets, and will pursue peace with as much vigor as he pursues war. You can guess who that is.
PS: If you haven’t yet enjoyed the video, here it is:
If you are real glutton for punishment, you can view the rest too.