Fouad Ajami explains:
Romney is an old-fashioned, unstylish man whose views hark back to a time when America was confident in itself and less worried about the judgments of other nations.
We are aware that many of his views “hark back” to that distant age, which most of us refer to as the year 2002. Most Americans dismissed the objections of other nations’ leaders when they told us that invading Iraq was a foolish and dangerous thing to do, and then came to regret dismissing their warnings and advice. That was a time when most of the people in our government, especially in the executive branch, were extremely overconfident to the point of being hubristic. If he is trying to say that Romney and his advisers have not really learned anything from the debacle in Iraq, he is correct. If Ajami means that Romney’s foreign policy seems anachronistic and poorly-suited to the contemporary world, he has a point.
Romney’s trip abroad doesn’t reflect a lack of worry about the “judgments of other nations.” His itinerary is based on the false assumption that there is deep dissatisfaction with the current administration in the three countries he is visiting, and by going there Romney hopes to exploit that dissatisfaction. That dissatisfaction is mostly imagined, but it shows that Romney and his advisers are quite interested in the “judgments of other nations” when they think those judgments support their criticisms of Obama’s record. Indeed, Romney wouldn’t be following Obama’s example of going abroad before the election if he didn’t want to emphasize the importance of the “judgments of other nations.” He thinks that these nations have already rendered negative judgments of Obama, which is one reason why he chose these places rather than others. Unfortunately for him, the caricature of Obama’s foreign policy that he’s running against isn’t one that at least two of these nations’ governments would recognize.
Ajami goes on to say something that I have seen quite often recently in connection with Romney’s visit to Poland, and it isn’t correct:
And Romney’s previous characterization of Russia as the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe” is music to Polish ears.
Not exactly. When U.S.-Russian relations deteriorate, as they did from 2002 to 2008, that makes things more difficult and potentially dangerous for Poland. Polish-Russian relations have been gradually thawing over the last five years, which has coincided with improved U.S.-Russian relations over the last three years. It’s not obvious that most Poles would welcome a return to the tensions of the previous decade that Romney’s antagonism to Russia represents. Increasing tensions between the U.S. and Russia wouldn’t be in Poland’s interests (or ours, for that matter), so Romney’s inaccurate and embarrassing “number one geopolitical foe” statement is more likely to make many Poles nervous rather than pleased if they are even bothering to pay attention to him.
According to polling in February 2011, only 34% of Poles have a negative attitude towards Russians, while 29% are “neutral” and 32% have a positive attitude. There is a constituency in Poland for Romney’s anti-Russian message, but it isn’t a majority. While Polish public opinion soured on Russia between 2010 and 2011, and 44% said in March 2011 that the Civic Platform government has been “too lenient” in its dealings with Russia, an even larger majority (68%) viewed the attitude of Law and Justice as “too confrontational.” According to this, a majority would most likely see Romney’s approach to Russia as being too confrontational. So there will be some Poles inclined to welcome Romney’s hard-line attitude towards Russia, but far more will not.