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Mitt Romney's Foreign Policy Kama Sutra

September 16, 2012

Mitt Romney's foreign policy manual is a lot like the Kama Sutra. It contains virtually every possible position. As it turns out, Romney's tried them all. But he's offering no apology for being unable to maintain any of them for very long.
As a quick glance shows, the Romney guide to international relations may start with "Congress of the Elephant" and "Backwards Facing Neocon," but the contortions hardly end there.

For example, Romney has said "this century's nightmare" is "violent, radical Islamic fundamentalism." But while in 2009 he wrote that Iran was the "biggest threat since Soviets," Mitt now claims that Russia is "our number one geopolitical foe." Al Qaeda? Not so much.
In 2007, Governor Romney declared that "It's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person," only to boast days later that Osama Bin Laden is "going to pay and he will die."
Die Bin Laden did, but only because President Obama followed through on candidate Obama's promise that "if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights." Nevertheless, the 2012 edition of Mitt Romney that claimed "I think other presidents and other candidates, like myself, would do exactly the same thing" forgot about the Mitt of 2007, who said "I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours."
To be sure, Romney is all over the map on the war in Afghanistan. Contradicting the public statements of his own advisers, Mitt announced that "We should not negotiate with the Taliban. We should defeat the Taliban." He has both criticized and agreed with President Obama that "the timetable by the end of 2014 is the right timetable for us to be completely withdrawn from Afghanistan, other than a small footprint of support forces." Yet before that November statement Romney said last June," I also think we've learned that our troops shouldn't go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation. Only the Afghanis can win Afghanistan's independence from the Taliban." It's no wonder he said nothing at all about Afghanistan at the Republican National Convention.
For years, Governor Romney has taken a very hard line on Iran, invariably the same on drawn his friend and former business colleague Benjamin Netanyahu. That's why he forcefully campaigned for U.S. state pension funds to divest their holdings in companies doing business with Tehran. That effort lasted exactly one day, or as long as it took for the media to discover that Romney's former employer Bain & Company was doing just that.
As for launching military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, Republican nominee Romney said that "if I'm President," he won't "need to have a war powers approval or special authorization for military force." But while Mitt now says that "the president has that capacity now," during his first White House run he responded that first "you sit down with your attorneys." Contradicting both positions, Iran-Contra figure turned Romney adviser Elliott Abrams demanded President Obama go to Congress now for authorization of military force against Iran.
If President Romney's advisers get their way, he's going to need it. In July, his aide Dan Senor (who as PR flack during the occupation of Iraq famously told a group of reporters a year into the war, "Off the record, Paris is burning. On the record, security and stability are returning to Iraq.") announced, "If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision." But in an interview this week with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Romney contradicted that line, saying he has the same "red line" as President Obama: "Iran may not have a nuclear weapon." Of course, Mitt was in turn contradicted by his adviser Eliot Cohen, who claimed that Romney "would not be content with an Iran one screwdriver's turn away from a nuclear weapon."
Of course, Mitt Romney had no such qualms about the war in Iraq. Not, that us, until he did. As he put it in 2008, "It was the right decision to go into Iraq. I supported it at the time; I support it now." But despite the lack of any new information over the following three years, Mitt had a change of heart. "Well, if we knew at the time of our entry into Iraq that there were no weapons of mass destruction -- if somehow we had been given that information, why, obviously we would not have gone in." Just days later, Romney changed course again:

"The decision to go into Iraq was based upon the information that existed at that time and I supported that decision then and continue to, we now know a lot of things that we didn't know at that time but I don't want to suggest in any way that the decisions that were taken by congress and by the president based upon the information that we had was anything other than correct."

Even before his embarrassing case of premature condemnation this week, Mitt Romney had awkwardly assumed several positions on Libya. On March 21, 2011, Romney announced, "I support military action in Libya. I support our troops there and the mission that they've been given." But a month later, Romney decided that President Obama was being too aggressive. But bending over backwards to woo hardline conservatives, Romney both slammed the President for "mission creep and mission muddle" and echoed John Bolton's statement that Obama was setting " himself up for "massive strategic failure" by demanding the ouster of the Libyan leader "while restricting military force to the limited objective of protecting civilians." By July, Romney asked, "Now the president is saying we have to remove Qaddafi. Who's going to own Libya if we get rid of the government there?" Yet when Qaddafi was killed, Romney changed course again, proclaiming, "It's about time."
On other matters large and small, Mitt Romney has tied himself up in knots. Earlier this year, Romney was quick to denounce the Obama administration over its handling of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng. But Romney's outrage turned to silence as the facts on the ground--and criticism from Bill Kristol that he was being "foolish"--emerged. And while he penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled "How I'll Deal with China's Rising Power," Romney was silent about the fact that Bain Capital, from whom he still earns millions annually, bought the video surveillance division of Chinese company that is a major supplier to the government in Beijing. Within the span of a few hours, Romney mocked and then praised London as host of the summer Olympics. And in 2007, Mitt Romney defended his sons' absence from the front lines in Iraq by proclaiming, "One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president." He later claimed he misspoke. (As for his own missionary position in France, Mitt said he both did and didn't regret not serving in Vietnam.)
As it turns out, Mitt Romney has even changed positions on changing positions. After all, the Kama Sutra candidate claimed "I think you'll find that I've been as consistent as human beings can be" after having declared "if you're looking for someone who's never changed any positions on any policies, then I'm not your guy."
That's one Mitt Romney position voters can get behind.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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