Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Republican Frontrunner Mitt Romney Touts Neoconservative Foreign Policy

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Republican Frontrunner Mitt Romney Touts Neoconservative Foreign Policy

Article excerpt

In his first major foreign policy address of the 2012 presidential campaign, Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney on Oct. 7 presented a largely neoconservative platform similar to that pursued by George W. Bush, although he never mentioned the former president by name.

Speaking at The Citadel military academy in South Carolina, Romney promised to increase defense spending-and the size of the U.S. Navy-as part of a strategy designed to ensure that the United States remain the world's dominant military power and that the 21st century be "an American century."

"The United States should always retain military supremacy to deter would-be aggressors and to defend our allies and ourselves," he told the Citadel cadets. "And know this: If America is the undisputed leader of the world, it reduces our need to police a more chaotic world.

"And if you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your president," he said. "You have that president today," he said of Barack Obama, whose policies of the last three years he characterized as "feckless."

"Know this," Romney went on in an implicit assertion of the kind of unilateralism which Bush extolled but which alienated even some of Washington's closest allies. "While America should work with other nations, we always reserve the right to act alone to protect our vital national interests."

Critical to those interests, he made clear, was the greater Middle East. He suggested that Washington should align itself even more closely to Israel-whose existence as a "Jewish state" he characterized as a "vital national interest"-and pursue a more confrontational policy toward Iran, including the regular deployment in the region of two aircraft carrier task forces as a "deterrent."

"I will again reiterate that Iran obtaining nuclear weapons is unacceptable," he stressed, asserting also that "in the hands of the ayatollahs, a nuclear Iran is nothing less than an existential threat to Israel. Iran's suicidal fanatics could blackmail the world."

He listed as the greatest threats to the U.S. interests "Islamic fundamentalism"; the ongoing struggle in the greater Middle East "between those who yearn for freedom and those who seek to crush it"; the "ripple effects of failed and failing states from [sic] which terrorists may find safe haven;" the "anti-American visions of regimes in Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, [and] Cuba"; and "rising nations with hidden and emerging aspirations like China, determined to be a world superpower, and a resurgent Russia."

Romney spoke at the end of a week which saw two potential Republican rivals-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie [who has since endorsed him] and the party's 2008 vice-presidential candidate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin-take their names out of consideration. The rapid decline-due to a series of poor debate performances-of far-right Texas Gov. Rick Perry in the polls since he entered the race last month has made Romney the clear favorite for the party's nomination.

Romney's Neocon Advisers

His speech also followed the release earlier in the week of a list of his top foreign policy advisers, many, if not most, of whom are known for their neoconservative and strongly pro-Israel views.

Remarkably, three of the top advisers-Eric Edelman, Robert Kagan [who is married to State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland], and Dan Senor-serve on the four-man board of directors of the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), the ideological successor to the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which may help to explain why Romney evoked the phrase "American Century" no less than five times in his speech. Both FPI and PNAC were co- founded by Kagan and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol.

PNAC played a leading role in mobilizing support for "regime change" in Iraq beginning in the late 1990s and spearheading the public post- 9/11 campaign for invading the country. …

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