Fouad Ajami’s op-ed on Syria is a predictable complaint about a lack of American interference in the conflict, but it isn’t until the end that it becomes clear that Ajami is living in an entirely different world:
And the amazing thing of it all is that Mr. Obama’s Republican rival, Mitt Romney, cedes him the foreign policy domain, allowing him to pose as though all is well in the world beyond our shores.
Considering that any time spent not talking about the economy is a distraction and a waste of his time, Romney has spent an inordinate amount of time trying to make foreign policy into a major issue in this election. The truly amazing thing is that Romney’s over-the-top and ridiculous pandering to hawkish interventionists doesn’t seem to earn him any credit from them. Romney has tried to seize on virtually every newsworthy international episode and event for the last six months to make attacks on Obama. Of course, those attacks usually don’t go very well, because they involve Romney saying obviously false things or making incoherent arguments, but it can’t be denied that he is making regular attacks on these issues.
He has been reliably bashing Obama on Iran, Syria, Russia, China, NATO, missile defense, and Israel for months if not years. One of his advisers even penned a long op-ed in a German newspaper attacking Obama’s response to the eurozone crisis. That op-ed has mostly been ignored here in the U.S., which is probably just as well for Romney’s campaign, but it has clearly irked the administration. In spite of all this, Romney has supposedly ceded “the foreign policy domain” to Obama!
Romney isn’t challenging Obama on foreign policy issues enough to satisfy some hawks, but they are unlikely to be appeased until Romney endorses an extremely unwise position on Syria. Unlike these hawks, Romney doesn’t seem to be quite so foolish as to commit himself to greater involvement in a conflict that a huge majority of Americans wants the U.S. to avoid. The truth is that he is already spending far too much time on these issues. Almost every time he opens his mouth on something related to foreign affairs, he ends up saying something that discredits him a little bit more. His statements tend to conjure up unfortunate memories of the Bush years. Foreign policy isn’t going to decide this election. However, if the public perceives Romney to be as reckless as his foreign policy rhetoric suggests he will be, it will be much more difficult for him to present himself as a suitable replacement for Obama. If voters think that a vote for Romney is a vote for an unknown number of new wars, that might be enough to drive them back towards the incumbent. Bizarrely, Romney wants to keep calling attention to the subject in which he has the least experience and understanding, and if he doesn’t stop soon it will most likely come back to haunt him.