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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 10/15/11

Is Mitt Romney a Neocon Purist?

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Mitt Romney

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has proclaimed a set of foreign policy goals that reprise the neoconservative agenda of the Project for the New American Century, but the Washington Post's neocon editors still chide him for not being hawkish enough.

On Saturday, the Post editorial, "Mitt Romney's Foreign Policy Failings," notes that Romney suggested on the campaign trail that "U.S. troops in Afghanistan should be withdrawn 'as soon as we possibly can' and that the war showed that Americans 'cannot fight another nation's war of independence.'"

The Post cites those comments as raising concerns that Romney "might be positioning himself to the left of President Obama."

Poor Romney. Here's a guy who assembled a team of neocon retreads to write his foreign policy white paper, "An American Century." He allowed the title to be an obvious homage to the neocon Project for the New American Century, which in the 1990s built the ideological framework for the disastrous Iraq War and other "regime change" strategies of President George W. Bush.

Romney even recruited Eliot Cohen, a founding member of the Project for the New American Century and a prote'ge' of prominent neocons Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, to write the foreword. And Romney still can't get the neocon editors of the Washington Post to overlook his suggestion that the Afghan War shouldn't be endless.

However, perhaps the Post just wants to make sure that Romney doesn't deviate even slightly from the course marked out by his neocon advisers. After all, Romney's white paper chastises Barack Obama for committing himself to pulling out the 30,000 "surge troops" from Afghanistan by mid-2012 and conducting a gradual withdrawal of the remaining 70,000 by the end of 2014.

Instead, Romney's white paper argues that Obama should have followed the advice of field commanders like then-Gen. David Petraeus and made withdrawals either more slowly or contingent on American military success. The white paper also opposes a full withdrawal from Iraq, or even an Obama administration plan to leave only 3,000 or so "trainers."

More broadly -- and the Washington Post's editors should like this -- Romney's white paper makes clear that if he wins the White House, he is determined to reconstruct pretty much all of Bush's foreign policy, complete with a renewed insistence on U.S. military dominance of the world and a full restoration of neocon influence in Washington.

Hostility to Critics

Romney's "An American Century" also brings back a favorite tactic of the Bush years, the baiting of Americans who dare criticize the nation's hubristic foreign policy of the last decade. Echoing a favorite Republican talking point, Romney scolds Obama for supposedly "apologizing" for America.

The white paper states:

"In his first year in office alone, President Obama issued apologies for America in speeches delivered in France, England, Turkey, and Egypt not to mention on multiple similar occasions here at home.

"Among the 'sins' for which he has repented in our collective name are American arrogance, dismissiveness, and derision; for dictating solutions, for acting unilaterally, for acting without regard for others; for treating other countries as mere proxies, for unjustly interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, for committing torture, for fueling anti-Islamic sentiments, for dragging our feet in combating global warming, and for selectively promoting democracy.

"The sum total of President Obama's rhetorical efforts has been a form of unilateral disarmament in the diplomatic and moral sphere. A President who is so troubled by America's past cannot lead us into the future."

In other words, Romney's neocons are reaffirming their long-held pattern of demonizing anyone who tries to discuss U.S. foreign policy honestly. After all, the neocons of the Bush years were guilty of pretty much every "sin" that is cited above. Apparently, it's disqualifying to tell the truth.

Romney also attacks Obama for even modestly trimming the U.S. military budget which now is roughly equal to what is spent by all other nations on the planet combined.

According to "An American Century," Romney...

"...will put our Navy on the path to increase its shipbuilding rate from nine per year to approximately fifteen per year. He will also modernize and replace the aging inventories of the Air Force, Army, and Marines, and selectively strengthen our force structure.

"And he will fully commit to a robust, multi-layered national ballistic-missile defense system to deter and defend against nuclear attacks on our homeland and our allies."

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at

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