By Lesley McNiesh
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney just returned from an overseas trip intended to shed light on his foreign policy credentials—and did it ever.
Romney has already raised concerns in foreign policy circles about his stance on nuclear weapons policy, especially when he called Russia our “number one geopolitical foe.” The newest series of gaffes reinforce the view that Romney is mired in a Cold War mindset from the last century that is obsessed with finding enemies rather than solutions.
A Romney advisor referenced shared “Anglo-Saxon heritage” between Romney and Britain, by many interpretations drawing a stark line that separated out people of other races or mixed descent. The Romney campaign denied that the comment reflects the candidate’s views. Then another advisor said the campaign would back an Israeli attack on Iran without considering any of the dangers. Even though Romney didn’t make these statements himself, his advisors are there to help shape policy and the candidate is accountable for those he chooses to be on his foreign policy team.
The gaffes got much worse: Romney suggested that disparity in wealth between Israelis and Palestinians is based on cultural differences, which set off a firestorm of controversy. A lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace is one of the most complicated issues the world faces. Many US presidents have tried to tackle it without success, but there is broad international agreement that any long-term solution requires a two-state solution. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described this vision: “two peoples live freely, side-by-side, in amity and mutual respect.” Romney’s Cold War era insistence on separating “us” and “them” won’t help create the understanding and respect that is needed for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Saeb Erekat, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, observed: “It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people.” Time and again, Romney and his advisors seem to present a surface view rather than trying to understand the complex issues that a US president will have to address.
The winner of the Presidential election in November will have to make important decisions on nuclear force structure and posture, responding to Iran’s nuclear pursuits, competition with China and strengthening international cooperation on 21st century security threats. So far, Mitt Romney has not inspired much confidence that he is up to the task.