Like George W. Bush, Mitt Romney has responded to his lack of foreign policy experience by surrounding himself with clever neoconservatives who are now looking forward to expanding Bush's "global war on terror" into what neocon ideologue William Kristol calls a U.S. "war with political Islamism."
In a Washington Post op-ed on Thursday, Kristol dismissed President Barack Obama's phased military withdrawal from Afghanistan -- and his statement that "this time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end" -- as foolish wishful thinking.
"It would be wonderful if Obama's view of 9/11 and its implications were correct," Kristol wrote. "But if it's not going to be true that Afghanistan is where 'this time of war ... will end' -- even if Afghanistan is pacified and we're no longer fighting there -- then the American people should know that."
What the American people should know, in Kristol's view, is that a post-Obama administration -- presumably headed by Republican Mitt Romney and staffed by neocon hawks -- will undertake a grander "war with political Islamism," a conflict whose full dimensions even "war president" George W. Bush shrank from.
"This isn't a pleasant reality, and even the Bush administration wasn't quite ready to confront it," Kristol wrote. "But President George W. Bush did capture the truth that we are engaged in -- and had no choice but to engage in -- a bigger war, a 'global war on terror,' of which Afghanistan was only one front.
"There are, of course, problems with 'global war on terror' as a phrase and an organizing principle. But it does capture what we might call the 'big' view of 9/11 and its implications."
As part of an even "bigger" view of 9/11, Kristol called for engaging in a broader conflict, ranging "from Pakistan in the east to Tunisia in the west, and most visibly now in places such as Iran and Yemen and Somalia."
In other words, Kristol and the neocons expect a President Romney to let them refocus the United States onto a "war" not simply against al-Qaeda and its affiliates but against nations where "political Islamism" gains power, which could include Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and many other Muslim countries.
One might as well say the United States will be at war with the Muslim world, though Kristol hastily added that this "war with political Islamism" does not always have to involve open warfare.
He wrote: "This doesn't mean we need to be deploying troops and fighting ground wars all around the globe. [But] unfortunately, the war in which we are engaged won't end with peace in, or withdrawal from, Afghanistan."
A Romney Presidency?
Most political analysts say the November elections will turn on the economy with foreign policy a second-tier issue. In addition, many progressives have denounced Obama and his more targeted approach of relying on drone strikes to kill alleged terrorists as unacceptable, with some on the Left vowing not to support his reelection.
But it shouldn't be missed that a President Romney would reinstall the neocons, including many who worked for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, at the levers of American power. Indeed, Romney's foreign policy "white paper" was largely drafted by neocons. Even the name, "An American Century," was an homage to the neocon manifesto of the 1990s, "Project for a New American Century."
Romney's foreign policy advisers include:
Cofer Black, a key Bush counterterrorism official; Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security; Eliot Cohen, a neocon intellectual; Paula Dobriansky, a former Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs; Eric Edelman, a national security aide to Vice President Cheney; Michael Hayden, the ex-director of CIA and the National Security Agency who defended Bush's warrantless spying program; Robert Kagan, a Washington Post columnist; former Navy Secretary John Lehman; and Daniel Senor, spokesman for Bush's Iraq occupation.
Romney's foreign policy also would restore George W. Bush's "with us or against us" approach to the world -- except that Romney, like Kristol, advocates even a more confrontational style, essentially a new Cold War against "rogue nations," a revised "axis of evil."