Political Animal


October 01, 2012 9:22 AM No Daylight

By Ed Kilgore

Since Mitt Romney has decided, for reasons that are a bit obscure, to make foreign policy a major focus of his campaign at this sensitive moment of the presidential contest, it’s time once again to note a rather jarring contradiction nestled in the center of his and his party’s policies and rhetoric. It’s nicely presented once again in a Wall Street Journal op-ed signed by the Republican nominee himself.

It begins with the usual “American exceptionalism” rap: the world is safe if the United States not only walks tall, but walks alone in its status as the source of all virtue and power:

Since World War II, America has been the leader of the Free World. We’re unique in having earned that role not through conquest but through promoting human rights, free markets and the rule of law. We ally ourselves with like-minded countries, expand prosperity through trade and keep the peace by maintaining a military second to none.

But Obama doesn’t get it, and isn’t maintaining our towering-colossus position:

President Obama has allowed our leadership to atrophy. Our economy is stuck in a “recovery” that barely deserves the name. Our national debt has risen to record levels. Our military, tested by a decade of war, is facing devastating cuts thanks to the budgetary games played by the White House. Finally, our values have been misapplied—and misunderstood—by a president who thinks that weakness will win favor with our adversaries.

But what is the supreme example of Obama’s “weakness” and refusal to keep the United States the world’s sole supremely sovereign super-power? Refusing to outsource our Middle Eastern policy to Bibi Netanyahu:

The president began his term with the explicit policy of creating “daylight” between our two countries. He recently downgraded Israel from being our “closest ally” in the Middle East to being only “one of our closest allies.” It’s a diplomatic message that will be received clearly by Israel and its adversaries alike. He dismissed Israel’s concerns about Iran as mere “noise” that he prefers to “block out.” And at a time when Israel needs America to stand with it, he declined to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In this period of uncertainty, we need to apply a coherent strategy of supporting our partners in the Middle East—that is, both governments and individuals who share our values.

So the first step Romney urges is “placing no daylight between the United States and Israel.” And that clearly includes a shift in U.S. policy towards Iran away from opposition to acquisition of nuclear weapons to the “red line” Netanyahu is demanding, acquisition of “nuclear capability,” which because of the vague nature of the definition of “capability,” means a pre-justification for military action against Tehran any old time now.

Put aside for a moment the arguments about Iran’s ultimate intentions and its alleged historically unique indifference to nuclear deterrence, or about the actual balance of military power in the Middle East. Forget if you can the calamitous consequences, not only to regional peace and stability, but to the U.S. and global economies, of war with Iran.

Think about this: Mitt Romney is running for president on a platform of indistinguishable and conjoined exceptionalism for the U.S. and Israel. And because Israel faces a vastly greater military threat, this means America would abandon its own independence of action and consign its fate to Bibi Netanyahu, a man whose views on peace and security are highly controversial in Israel itself.

Republican foreign policy thinking has had to go through a lot of twists and turns to arrive at this extraordinarily anomalous place. But the bottom line seems to be remarkably similar to the one embraced twelve years ago by George W. Bush and his advisors, who took office determined to wage war with Iraq, despite the cover of all the middle-school bully-boy talk of preventing war by plotting it constantly.

If Romney wins and the United States supinely follows Bibi into yet another, and this time vastly more dangerous, Gulf war, nobody can say we were not warned.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Peter C on October 01, 2012 9:40 AM:

    I did not vote for Bibi Netanyahu and I don't want him setting US foreign policy.

    Israel is suffering through an infestation of Neo Cons. I know what that feels like and will wait patiently until they are better.

    I don't blame all of Israel for their infestation; I do not feel I was to blame for Bush.

  • Matt on October 01, 2012 9:43 AM:

    "American Exceptionalism" is right-wing code for "American Dictatorship of the World". They love democracy and freedom, but only for propertied white men in certain parts of North America. Clearly evident by their howls of protest any time a nation elects it own leaders whose policies are opposed to American hegemony.

  • Renai on October 01, 2012 9:46 AM:

    He'll have to start a draft, or else there won't be enough of those toy US Soldiers he forgets to thank to police the planet.

    Can continued recovery happen under the budget of yet another war?

  • martin on October 01, 2012 9:51 AM:

    Since World War II, America has been the leader of the Free World. We’re unique in having earned that role not through conquest but through promoting human rights, free markets and the rule of law. We ally ourselves with like-minded countries, expand prosperity through trade and keep the peace by maintaining a military second to none.

    On what freaking planet? Since WWII how many dictators have we supports, governments have we over thrown, economies we have crippled, civilians we have killed and countries we have invaded?

    We are only exceptional in that we have convinced ourselves we don't do any of that.

    Satisfactory killeon as Captcha so accurately describes it.

  • Danp on October 01, 2012 9:53 AM:

    Romney's op-ed is the type of rhetoric that reinforces the idea that Jews rule the media and Washington. The problem is that the very people Republicans pander to are the same ones most likely to broaden that concept to general antisemitism.

    Of course, Romney also believes that there is nothing we can do about the Israel/Arab conflict anyway. Talk about leading from behind.

  • c u n d gulag on October 01, 2012 10:00 AM:

    What Mitt knows about foreign policy would fit on the back of a cocktail napkin – with plenty of room left over for his economic policy:
    Foreign policy – STRUT & STOMP!
    Economic policy – Tax Cuts For Rich/Deregulate/Screw Everyone Else.

    In case anyone missed this yesterday, Chris Wallace asked Paulie-boy how Romney’s economic plan would work.

    Paulie said it was revenue-neutral.
    When Wallace asked how, Ryan dodged by saying it would take too long, and that there’s not enough time, but there would be tax cuts for all! (Sadly, he didn’t mention unicorns, ponies, kitties, or puppies).

    Paulie-boy, not enough time to explain the plan?
    Time is the problem?

    Dude, you’re on FOX “News” – it’s a 24 X 7 X 365 propaganda outfit for you and Mittens!!!

    How is there not enough time to explain the plan?
    If you actually had one – or one that you cared to explain.

    But you can’t now, can you? That would scare Joe and Jane Sixpack, their lil’ chillin’s, and Granmama and Grandpawpaw.

  • Anonymous on October 01, 2012 10:09 AM:

    Israel is NOT suffering from the neo-cons. Israel is suffering from the invasion of the Russian and eastern european jews in 1989 and after. It's easy to see this date as the hardening of positions - as the russian jews came to Israel, they clearly decided that they were not going to be put in the ghetto again, and this has led to an enormously difficult position for the Palestinians.

    We should not listen to Netanyahu. He is telling us false things.

  • jjm on October 01, 2012 10:31 AM:

    Romney as president scares the living daylights out of me. He is not a rational man (his wife even said she feared for his mental well being if he is elected) and given his intense religiosity, one wonders if he would really care if he inaugurated a world wide apocalypse. After all, after he died, he'd get a whole planet to rule, no sweat.

  • DAY on October 01, 2012 10:39 AM:

    "Since World War II, America has been the leader of the Free World. We’re unique in having earned that role not through conquest but through promoting human rights, free markets and the rule of law."

    Before WWII we were a backward nation, with a third rate army.

    Due to LUCK (two oceans and abundant natural resources) we became the arsenal of Democracy, and when the rest of the planet finished destroying itself we were the "Last Man Standing".

    But, Romney is not much interested in history- just how big his latest bank balance is.

  • esaud on October 01, 2012 10:54 AM:

    It is truly astonishing to me that Democrats are not making lots of loud noises about the radical shift the Republican Party made during the Bush administration when they went all in with Cheney and the neocons.

    A bunch of people who lie and torture their way into war resulting in 100,000 or so dead Iraqis, and no one says boo?

    I hope at least Elizabeth Warren talks about this tonight. She has started on the theme that a vote for Brown is a vote for the Republican party.

  • Diane Rodriguez on October 01, 2012 10:55 AM:

    Obama's comment, at the convention, about Romney being stuck in the cold war sums it up. His world view is dangerously retro and unrealistic. Day suggested the US, at the end of WWII, was "The Last Man Standing" - no longer. The neo-con philosophy is the most rapid path to our own 3rd world status.

  • SadOldVet on October 01, 2012 10:57 AM:

    Bibi NutAndYahoo has been telling us for 30 years that Iran is going to have nuclear weapons in 6 months to a year. That RawMoney wants to tie himself to the neocons, AIPAC, The Likud Party, and Benny NutAndYahoo is abundant reason that he MUST NOT be elected president.

  • Milt on October 01, 2012 11:05 AM:

    Since Romney is the talking head for the mega-corporations of which the military suppliers play a prominent role we can expect another one or two small controlled military actions. They learned their lesson with Vietnam and Iraq - no more real wars, just little actions that we can win quickly. No armageddon, it is bad for business.

  • g on October 01, 2012 11:14 AM:

    We’re unique in having earned that role not through conquest but through promoting human rights,

    How he can even SAY that after 10 years of wars that devastated two countries, it's shocking he isn't struck by lightning.

  • Leopold Von Ranke on October 01, 2012 11:35 AM:

    THe scariest thing about Romney, for me, was his insistence, while visiting with Bibi, that there should be no "daylight" between US and Israeli policy. As the article implies, this essentially makes Netanyahu US Secretary of State in a Romney administration.

  • ChicagoRob on October 01, 2012 12:02 PM:

    Are we blind to the fact that Obama has said he will do anything to keep Iran from getting a nuclear bomb?

  • James E. Powell on October 01, 2012 12:14 PM:

    Romney has added not one thing to the Republican argument of the last thirty years: Democrats will raise your taxes and give your money to the [insert racist epithet] and Democrats are wimps on foreign policy. (For some reason, the part about Democrats letting all the criminals go free has fallen by the wayside.)

    Before the campaign even began, Romney knew he would be making the Democrats are wimps argument. He has just been thrashing around looking for some semblance of a fact he can use to attach to the argument. He's got nothing, so he goes with Israel. Why? Because there is no bottom to that well.

  • ComradeAnon on October 01, 2012 12:29 PM:

    Where have I heard this before?

  • Ron Byers on October 01, 2012 12:53 PM:

    I think Romney is having a Senor moment.

    This retro NeoCon crap is soooooo 1999. We currently have a modern foreign policy being conducted by an outstanding President assisted by an able Vice President and a brilliant Secretary of State and a whole team of professionals. I don't want to go back to the foreign policy of Darth Vader and the American empire.

  • TCinLA on October 01, 2012 2:05 PM:

    Right now, the Israeli Defense Minister, the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Armed Forces and the heads and former of the Mossad are publicly on the record that Nitwityahoo is nuts with his desire for war with Iran, which only Nitwityahoo and his far right political allies are in favor of.

    It's interesting the "Homeland" has chosen to use the storyline of what happens in the aftermath of the Israeli strike on Iran as their premise for the new season.