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Romney, GOP still haven't come to terms with Iraq

COMMENTARYJohn Kerry had some fun Thursday night with Mitt Romney's failure to mention Afghanistan in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Conventio
Jordan Michael Smith

by Jordan Michael Smith


John Kerry had some fun Thursday night with Mitt Romney's failure to mention Afghanistan in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last week. But Afghanistan wasn't the only glaring foreign policy omission in Tampa. In Condoleezza Rice’s 2,000-word speech on Wednesday night, the word ‘Iraq’ did not appear. Excepting remarks by an Iraq War veteran, not a single speaker at the convention mentioned the defining foreign-policy decision of the Bush administration.

The GOP wants the public to forget that Republicans got America into a disastrous, unnecessary war, of course. But the larger problem is that conservatives simply have not acknowledged the failure they unleashed in Iraq, let alone learned from it. To judge both from Mitt Romney’s rhetoric and his advisors’ track records, when it comes to foreign policy, a Romney administration would be a second Bush administration.

Consider Mitt’s pronouncements on foreign affairs. According to his book, revealingly titled No Apology, the media “took the early view that Iraq was a hopeless quagmire.” Does Romney now think Iraq was a great success? Romney also defended Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous, blithe remark that ‘you go to war with the army you have.’ And of course, in 2007 Romney said that the United States should double Guantanamo.

More recently, he has parroted the bellicose rhetoric that proved so disastrous in the Bush years. Obama “abandoned our friends in Poland by walking away from missile defense commitments,” Romney said in Tampa. As it happens, earlier this month the Polish president slammed his government’s previous decision to host elements of the missile defense system as a “political mistake.” 57% of Poles were opposed to the idea of hosting a US missile defense system, according to polls. Romney thinks we should have stuck to a commitment to Poland that Poles don’t want it! 

Romney also has repeatedly slammed the president for seeking to engage with Iran, implying—without ever coming out and saying—that he'd be quicker to use military force His stance recalls Dick Cheney’s comment that “We don’t negotiate with evil—we defeat it.” We all saw how that worked out. 

Meanwhile, Romney is stacking his foreign-policy deck with veterans of the Bush administration. Bush’s ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, also spoke at the convention, and is rumored to be promised a top spot in any Romney administration. As recently as 2010, Bolton defended Iraq as a “very easy question” and told British journalists that their country was “on a road to national suicide” if they could not see the threat Saddam Hussein posted. Bolton has also suggested the U.S. should invade Syria and Iran, which would quite literally repeat the mistakes of Iraq. Then there's Dan Senor, who is said to be personally close to Romney. He said that Romney would back an Israeli military attack on Iran, which is a tacit encouragement of another war in the Middle East. Senor was Bush's top Iraq spinner when he served as a top spokesman for Paul Bremer, the Coalition Provisional Authority chief who disastrously disbanded the Iraqi military that fueled the insurgency.

In total, the Romney team boasts a staggering 37 former members of the Bush administration. And yet there's been essentially nothing from the campaign about the lessons of Iraq. That icludes from Romney and Paul Ryan themselves, both of whom supported the war. 

Perhaps that's no surprise. When you haven't bothered to think through the lessons of America's biggest foreign policy failure in a generation, you're not likely to have much to say.


Jordan Michael Smith is a Contributing Writer at Salon.