Common sense does show that Israel is the only country in the region that shares our values. Israel is our ally. It is the only decently governed country in the area; this is especially evident when we contrast Israel with American installed or encouraged regimes in Libya, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan. But Romney’s criticism of Obama and his understanding of what our political relations with Israel should be are nonsensical. Obama is criticized for placing “daylight” between America and Israel; Romney says there should be “no daylight between the United States and Israel.”
Grant is correct that Romney’s criticism and understanding of U.S.-client relationships are nonsensical, but this isn’t the first time Romney has said this sort of thing. It has been true of Romney’s statements on this subject for months. Whether he has described it in terms of “no daylight” or “not an inch of difference” or “locking arms” with allied and client governments, Romney has made this nonsensical, unworkable idea a pillar of his foreign policy. When he has allowed for the possibility that disagreements could exist, he has insisted that the U.S. never publicly express that disagreement, and he has applied this even to instances when U.S. officials are stating longstanding American policy.
It’s important to remember that Romney has elevated this to a general principle for managing relationships with all allies and clients. Romney said this back in September 2011:
You don’t allow an inch of space to exist between you and your friends and allies.
In addition to being impossible, this isn’t even desirable. U.S. interests are bound to diverge from those of allies and clients on many occasions. Sometimes it is useful to the U.S. to minimize and paper over those differences, and on occasion it may be necessary and important to emphasize them so that there will be no confusion about what the U.S. position is. One of Romney’s “principles” in foreign policy is supposed to be clarity, but he has consistently argued in favor of confusing the interests of the U.S. with those of our allies and clients.
A major part of managing these relationships successfully is acknowledging disagreements when they exist, finding ways to work around them, and keeping them from derailing constructive relations in other areas. There will also be cases where different allied and friendly governments will have competing or contradictory interests. When that happens, the U.S. can’t be expected to side entirely with one party over another, and it certainly can’t support both states in their goals at the same time. Romney’s “not an inch of space” view would fail badly if it were put into practice, and the fact that Romney thinks this is a clever position to take suggests that he hasn’t given the matter much thought.