23 October 2012

Juan Cole on Mitt Romney

On 2 October 2012 US Middle East expert Juan Cole published a piece on his Informed Comment blog entitled Top Ten Things Mitt Romney Gets Wrong About US Middle East Policy. As Mitt Romney may well become the President of the United States in three months’ time, what he gets wrong about Middle East policy is important to all of us.

Cole starts by noting that Romney had published an op-ed the previous day criticising President Obama’s Middle East policies, but that op-ed, apart from urging ‘strength’, offered no concrete alternative.

And, he completely misunderstands the history of the US role in the region, which causes him to misunderstand its present dilemmas.

Cole then goes on to list the ‘ten top things Mitt Romney gets wrong’ in delicious detail, the first five of which fly in the face of Romney’s foundation proposition that the US got to where it is today in the Middle East by ‘promoting human rights, free markets and the rule of law”. The others reveal a flawed understanding of more contemporary events.

He concludes:

Romney’s understanding of the challenges for the US in the Middle East is backwards, and so are his vague prescriptions. Military might, which you trumpet as the solution, is useless in the face of popular movements, Mr. Romney, and the US army could have done nothing to keep Mubarak in power or to keep the Muslim Brotherhood from winning elections. An even more fawning policy toward the Israeli Right Wing is not going to solve any of our problems in the Middle East, but rather will exacerbate them as Apartheid becomes more severe. And we’re already on a war footing with Iran, and any increase in tensions is very dangerous unless it has a clear and achievable policy objective (dissuading Iran from nuclear enrichment is not achievable).

As a new generation democratizes and public opinion becomes important, US public diplomacy and reaching out to young people becomes crucial. Seeking a modus vivendi with ascendant political Islam is now pivotal, because the US has fewer and fewer puppets under its thumb. Are you good at public diplomacy toward the Muslim world, Mr. Romney?

This is a great read, and an important one. Read it in full here.

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