Yosemite Sam Shallow: Romney’s Foreign Policy

There’s shallow, and then there’s so shallow you wouldn’t get your shoe laces wet if you stepped in it.  Thus we have Governor Romney’s foreign policy statement.

“The attack on our Consulate in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 was likely the work of forces affiliated with those that attacked our homeland on September 11th, 2001. This latest assault cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the Administration’s attempts to convince us of that for so long.  No, as the Administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others, especially women and girls; who are fighting to control much of the Middle East today; and who seek to wage perpetual war on the West.”  [WSJ]

Where to begin? How about the conflation between the Libyan and Egyptian situation?  Let’s stick with Libya.  Secretary of State Clinton spoke to the situation in Benghazi without referring to the infamous inflammatory film trailer, only hours after the attack on the consulate:

“But we must be clear-eyed, even in our grief. This was an attack by a small and savage group – not the people or Government of Libya. Everywhere Chris and his team went in Libya, in a country scarred by war and tyranny, they were hailed as friends and partners. And when the attack came yesterday, Libyans stood and fought to defend our post. Some were wounded. Libyans carried Chris’ body to the hospital, and they helped rescue and lead other Americans to safety. And last night, when I spoke with the President of Libya, he strongly condemned the violence and pledged every effort to protect our people and pursue those responsible.” [State 9/12/12]

To say that the Administration has “finally conceded” the attacks were the result of terrorists is to ignore Secretary Clinton’s opening sentence:

“Yesterday, our U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya was attacked. Heavily armed militants assaulted the compound and set fire to our buildings.”  [State 9/12/12] (emphasis added)

That would be “heavily armed militants.”   Where did Secretary Clinton speak to “This latest assault cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the Administration’s attempts to convince us of that for so long,” in her remarks on behalf of the American government?

Evidently, the Romney campaign didn’t get the memo from the State Department in which they’ve now been able to firmly identify those who attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi:

“The Department of State amended the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and E.O. 13224 designations of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula to include the new alias, Ansar al-Shari’a (AAS). The Department of State previously designated AQAP as an FTO and under E.O. 13224 on January 19, 2010.”  [State 10/4/12]

These designations are not made lightly, nor are they simply elaborations of unsubstantiated news reports or the product of punditry — the designations have consequences.

“The consequences of adding the new alias for AQAP include a prohibition against knowingly providing material support or resources to, or engaging in transactions with, Ansar al-Shari’a, and the freezing of all property and interest in property of the organization that are in the United States, or come within the United States, or the control of U.S. persons. The Department of State took these actions in consultation with the Departments of Justice and Treasury.

In addition, today the United Nations 1267/1989 Al-Qa’ida Sanctions Committee listed AAS. As a consequence the group now faces a worldwide assets freeze, a travel ban, and an arms embargo. The actions taken today against AAS support the U.S. effort to degrade the capabilities of its parent organization, AQAP. We are determined to eliminate AQAP’s ability to execute violent attacks and to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat their networks.” [State 10/4/12]

Let’s look to the generalities adopted by Governor Romney, such as the statement: “…attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others, especially women and girls; who are fighting to control much of the Middle East today; and who seek to wage perpetual war on the West.”

And, there’s nothing like having an opponent who wants to wage perpetual war to make any neoconservative delighted beyond reason.  Here we have all the necessary elements, (1) a “dark ideology,” which can be easily conflated with an entire religion; (2) a valiant nation out to protect women and girls; (3) the adoption of the Al Qaeda pipe dream of the revival of the Caliphate (don’t bet on it); and (4) the “perpetual war” motif which refers back to the neat and tidy categorizations of the Cold War Era.

What we have here is a rhetorical amalgamation of neo-conservative bombast, anti-Muslim propaganda, a smattering of the White Man’s Burden, and the proposal that we readjust the old Cold War classifications into which we can conveniently shove various and sundry new governments.

So, what is Governor Romney’s complaint?

“But it is the responsibility of our President to use America’s great power to shape history—not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events.  Unfortunately, that is exactly where we find ourselves in the Middle East under President Obama.” [WSJ]

This in the part where we’d expect to find some suggestions for how to shape policy.  Instead we simply heard a justification for intervention.

“Across the greater Middle East, as the joy born from the downfall of dictators has given way to the painstaking work of building capable security forces, and growing economies, and developing democratic institutions, the President has failed to offer the tangible support that our partners want and need.”  [WSJ]

The statement is demonstrably false.   First, the U.S. is in a delicate position in some Middle Eastern nations.  Our previous support for the Mubarek regime in Egypt has left many Egyptians with a bitter after taste.  Secondly, we can point to some very tangible kinds of support to both the new  Egyptian and the Libyan governments.   Those in the fact based universe will want to consult the State Department’s fact sheet on aid to Libya, describing aid ranging from political and electoral development to health and medical services.   American aid and expertise lent to the new Egyptian government is the subject of a fact sheet released by the State Department on September 24th.  For good measure, there’s also a summary of U.S. support for the new Tunisian government.

The remainder of Governor’s speech was a litany in support of intervention. Possibly military. Maybe economic. Could be aid based?  In short, a relatively empty framework into which those wishing to hear support for both military intervention or more foreign aid may find rhetorical sustenance.

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