Mitt Romney and the Neocons

Mitt Romney, despite his sometimes “soft” rhetoric on foreign policy issues, has embraced Neoconservative (Neocon) policymakers and advisers, including many of the same advisers who were responsible for the planning and implementation of the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.

Stephen Walt, Professor of International Relations at Harvard University, has published an analysis of the Third Obama-Romney Presidential Debate, which focused on foreign policy issues, in Foreign Policy.

Walt points out that Mitt Romney has employed Neocons as advisers and often touts their ideas. For example, despite Romney’s claims that he would cut the Federal deficit, he has repeatedly argued for increasing U.S. Defense spending, following Neocon policy advice. Walt explains: “And that’s the genius of neoconservatism’s frequently outlandish policy recommendations. They are always calling for the United States to spend excessive amounts of money on defense, to threaten potential enemies with dire consequences if they don’t bend to our will, and to use force against just about anyone that the neocons don’t like (and it’s a long list). No president — not even George W. Bush — has done everything the neocons wanted, but by constantly pushing for more, it makes doing at least part of what they want seem like a sensible, moderate course. And as we saw after 9/11, every now and then the stars may line up and the neocons will get what they’re pushing for (See under: Iraq). Too bad it never works out well when they do.” Should Romney be elected President, expect military spending to skyrocket (and the Federal budget deficit with it).

Neocon foreign policies have been abysmal failures, yet they continue to have significant influence in Washington, D.C., especially within the Republican party.  Part of this staying power is that Neocons have strong institutional support from conservative think tanks and political organizations.

The Neocons have been able to avoid paying for their serious policy miscalculations and mistakes.  Walt argues that: “Neoconservatism’s final strand of twisted genius is its imperviousness to contrary evidence. Because most of their prescriptions are so extreme, they can explain away failure by claiming that the country just didn’t follow their advice with sufficient enthusiasm. If we lost in Iraq, that’s because Bush didn’t attack Iran and Syria too, or it’s because Obama decided to withdraw before the job was really done. (Such claims are mostly nonsense, of course, but who cares?) If Afghanistan turned into a costly quagmire on Bush’s watch, it’s because Clinton and Bush refused to ramp up defense spending as much as the neocons wanted. If we now headed for the exit with little show for our effort, it’s because we didn’t send a big enough Afghan surge in 2009-2010. For neocons, policy failure can always be explained by saying that feckless politicians just didn’t go as far as the neocons demanded, which means their advice can never be fully discredited.”

The third Presidential debate failed to clarify Romney’s foreign policy ideas, but his many speeches clearly show a strong, and dangerous, Neocon influence.

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