Harlan Ullman sees Romney’s vulnerability on foreign policy:
At this point, Romney hasn’t displayed sufficient foreign policy skills or an understanding of these issues likely to prove persuasive to voters beyond attacking Obama. Unfortunately, those attacks so far lack weight and Romney’s alternatives are either superficial or frightening, e.g. his statements vis-a-vis Russia and Iran. And too many of his listed advisers carry the burden of having advised W and his series of foreign policy disasters and gaffes.
I agree entirely. There is one other thing I would add. Romney’s “superficial or frightening” views are not just a product of his lack of understanding of the relevant issues. Unfortunately, it appears that anyone in a prominent position of leadership within the Republican Party is obliged to adopt views similar to these, because these are the views that many Republican foreign policy activists and advisers demand. Romney’s weakness on foreign policy reflects the larger Republican predicament on foreign policy, which stems from the party’s failure to acknowledge fully the Bush administration’s failures and the related unwillingness to move away from the thinking that led to them.
On the contrary, judging from Romney’s campaign statements to date the lesson that he and his advisers have learned from the last decade was that Bush was insufficiently aggressive. Bush dangerously stoked tensions with Iran and consistently made the wrong choices on Russia policy, but Romney sometimes speaks even more recklessly than Bush. Even though he did almost everything possible to make relations with Russia worse, Bush paid lip service to desiring Russian cooperation on certain issues. Romney doesn’t seem to think cooperation with Russia (or China) is possible or desirable. So far, Romney appears to favor a return to Bush era foreign policy, but with less tact and respect for the interests of other states.
Romney’s foreign policy is also defined by the outdated habit of splitting the world into two antagonistic camps. Nikolas Gvosdev explains:
But Russia’s position — supportive of the U.S. on some issues, in active opposition on others — does not fit well into America’s historically binary foreign policy approach, by which other states are classed as either “friends” or “foes.” An outgrowth of the Cold War era, reinforced during the War on Terror, the attitude that countries are either “with us,” and thereby expected to more or less line up with every U.S. position, or “against us,” and therefore classified as adversaries, is hard to shake.
We see evidence that this binary approach is still very much alive in U.S. dealings with any countries that do not fall in line on every aspect of U.S. policy towards Iran. If Turkey and Brazil seek a fuel-swap deal with Iran, the U.S. dismisses the effort and rebukes them for trying. If India refuses to join in the embargo on Iran, it is warned publicly by its American sympathizers that it is jeopardizing the bilateral relationship, and it is threatened with sanctions. In spite of this, Romney’s criticisms suggest that he thinks one of Obama’s greatest mistakes is pursuing cooperation with states that don’t fall simply into categories of friend or foe. It’s as if he thinks it is wrong to try to advance U.S. interests through cooperation with another state unless the other state is entirely and always on “our” side. That doesn’t leave many states with which to cooperate.
As Gvosdev argues, the old binary approach cannot account for all those states that are sometimes cooperative and sometimes opposed to U.S. goals. He uses Romney’s “number one geopolitical foe” blunder on Russia as an example:
The problem with Romney’s remarks is not that they point out that Russia and the United States still have serious disagreements on a number of international issues — this is certainly true. The problem is the zero-sum nature of the comments: that faced with a U.S.-Russia relationship that resembles the classic “glass half-empty, half-full” scenario, Romney is willing to declare that there is nothing in the glass at all. Under this approach, countries that have lukewarm relations with Washington are grouped together with America’s most implacable foes [bold mine-DL].
This is the real absurdity of Romney’s foreign policy. He condemns Obama for being too accommodating to enemies, but his own approach necessarily increases the number of states classified as enemies. That in turn reduces the number of states with which the U.S. can cooperate in any way, because Romney seems to consider it outrageous that the U.S. should ever cooperate or negotiate with states that he perceives simply as “foes.”