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War and Peace by Mitt Romney

April 26, 2011

By now, Mitt Romney's gymnastic flip-flops and comic turnabouts are the stuff of political legend. After all, on abortion, immigration, his fidelity to Ronald Reagan, his signature health care law and even his state of residence, Romney has reversed himself, often more than once. But when it comes to matters of war and peace, Romney's contortions are the most telling of all.
So it is with Romney's recent op-ed proclaiming that "one of the biggest peacetime spending binges in American history." Confronted with the inconvenient truth that the United States is currently fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq which have killed over 4,000 Americans, wounded over 30,000 more and will ultimately cost $3 trillion, the Romney forces retreated. "He meant to say," spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom explained, " since World War II."
But during his presidential campaign, there was no mistaking what Governor Romney meant to say about the military service of his five sons.
Mitt Romney, as you'll recall, avoided combat duty in the rice fields of Vietnam by getting multiple deferments to perform his Mormon mission in the vineyards of France. And while candidate Romney called for a war against virtually all Muslim groups worldwide and pledged to "double Guantanamo," he deployed his sons to the cornfields of Iowa to aid his campaign. The perfect hair and gleaming teeth of the Romney clan were found on the Five Brothers blog, not with a band of brothers outside of Baquba.
So in August 2007, Rachel Griffiths of Milan, Illinois asked Romney about the non-service of his privileged sons, one of whom was then completing a 99 county tour of Iowa in a campaign RV. Romney's answer was, well, Romneyesque:

"My sons are all adults and they've made decisions about their careers and they've chosen not to serve in the military and active duty and I respect their decision in that regard. 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. I respect that and respect all those and the way they serve this great country."

Clearly, Romney viewed his own campaign as his sons' ultimate sacrifice for their nation. But in New Hampshire that December, he showed his own support for the war in Iraq by manufacturing ersatz tears while contemplating the hypothetical loss of one of his non-servings sons. As the AP reported at the time:

The soldiers that I was with stood at attention and saluted," Romney told employees at Insight Technology Inc., a company that makes infrared optical equipment for U.S. troops. "And I put my hand on my heart, and tears begin to well in your eyes, as you can imagine in a circumstance like that. I have five boys of my own. I imagined what it would be like to lose a son in a situation like that.

Of course, what Mitt Romney really couldn't imagine was losing the Republican nomination for President. And that led him to some of the most theatrically bellicose performances of the 2008 campaign.
Long before Glenn Beck was warning Fox News viewers that "all Islamic governments would unify under a caliphate," candidate Romney was telling the Republican faithful the same thing.
Romney's difficulties with Islam stem from his shocking insistence on conflating all Muslims into a single jihadist threat. In May 2007, Romney alarmingly - and erroneously - equated Sunni and Shiite, friend and foe, the guilty and the innocent across the Islamic world. (Ironically, his enemies list included the Muslim Brotherhood, 10 of whose members have been invited to President Obama's 2009 speech in Cairo.)

"But I don't want to buy into the Democratic pitch, that this is all about one person, Osama bin Laden. Because after we get him, there's going to be another and another. This is about Shia and Sunni. This is about Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the worldwide jihadist effort to try and cause the collapse of all moderate Islamic governments and replace them with a caliphate."

(Even regarding that "one person, Osama Bin Laden," Romney struggled. After insisting in May 2007 that "It's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person," Romney reversed course just three days later and declared of Bin Laden, " He's going to pay, and he will die.")
With so many potential enemies, it's no wonder Mitt Romney announced during a May 2007 Republican presidential candidates forum:

"Some people have said we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is, we ought to double Guantanamo."

As it turned out, Romney wasn't the only Republican spouting the "Islamofascism" talking point. But by the fall of 2007, Mitt expanded his umbrella to include Iran. In an October 2007 campaign ad simply titled, "Jihad," Romney amazingly explained that Shiite Iran wanted to join Sunni Muslims in extending their dominion over the entire world:

"We can and will stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons...It's this century's nightmare, jihadism - violent, radical Islamic fundamentalism. Their goal is to unite the world under a single jihadist caliphate."

That doubtless came as a surprise to the mullahs in Tehran.
Sadly, Romney's grandstanding on Iran got him in trouble repeatedly through the 2008 campaign. In September 2007, Romney called on the United Nations to not merely ban Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from speaking to the world body, but to indict him on war crimes charges as well. That pandering to hardliners followed Romney's catastrophic call that February for state governments to disinvest their holdings in companies doing business with Tehran. His crusade foundered within 24 hours when it was revealed Romney's old employer, Bain & Co. had extensive links to recent Iranian business deals. Romney's feeble response?

"This is something for now-forward."

Something for now forward. Those four words invariably sum up whatever Mitt Romney's latest position is on war and peace - and virtually everything else.


About

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

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