This is great. Romney is politicizing our foreign policy, in foolish ways, and The Washington Post’s David Ignatius has come out with a reasonable/thoughtful rebuke. I seize two significant statements: The Arabs are writing this chapter of history for themselves. Exactly! This is what the Arab Spring is all about, this is what Pankaj Mishra was saying in the NYT when he said that America should bug out of the Middle East, this was the spirit that the U.S. violated in supporting the establishment of Israel and, later, in not respecting Arab olive branches re the two-state solution on ’67 lines (yes, I’m thinking there was public opinion to support such a compromise). The second statement Ignatius makes is that Netanyahu must not lead our foreign policy, and Romney is abdicating leadership to Netanyahu. Let’s have this out. Excerpts:
What was missing from Romney’s speech was an understanding that there is a revolution rolling across the Middle East. He talked about “America’s great power to shape history” and what he claimed was Obama’s mistake of “leaving our destiny at the mercy of events.” What was lacking was any apparent recognition that the Arab uprising has been an assertion of citizen rights against police-state regimes and that America couldn’t stop this tidal wave of people power even if it wanted to.
Obama has understood the nature of this revolution from the beginning, and though I wish he had been more clear and forceful at various points in articulating America’s interests and values, I’d say he has gotten the big things right. He remembers the limits of American power and the need to let Arabs know they are writing this chapter of their history for themselves….
The biggest difference between these candidates on the Middle East, when you boil down all the other rhetoric, is probably on Israel. Romney said it pretty clearly: “The world must never see any daylight between our two nations.” Taken at face value, that seems to mean the United States shouldn’t take public positions that are different from Israel’s. That’s a formulation that few Republican foreign policy leaders would agree with. Among those GOP luminaries who very deliberately opened “daylight” were Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Brent Scowcroft, James Baker and Condoleezza Rice.
Romney can’t seriously mean that on all major issues affecting Israel, he will defer to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? No nation hands over policy choices to another, even to its best friend.