Home/Daniel Larison/Obama and Romney Are Both Bad for Peace, But Romney Is Obviously Worse

Obama and Romney Are Both Bad for Peace, But Romney Is Obviously Worse

Jeffrey Goldberg believes that Romney would be more likely to revive the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process”:

If Netanyahu remains prime minister for an extended period, Romney has a better chance of resuscitating peace talks than Obama.

It is almost certainly the case that the fate of the “peace process” will not be significantly affected by the outcome of our presidential election this year. That process has been more or less moribund for over a decade, and the differences between the two candidates on Israel and Palestine are not nearly as great as they would like everyone to believe. As Scoblete notes, progress on this front seems elusive regardless of how the U.S. acts. It isn’t true that Romney has a “better chance,” but that is because there is not much of a chance of reviving the process under Romney or Obama.

For his part, Romney has repeatedly pledged that there will be “not an inch of space” between the U.S. and Israel, especially not in public, which suggests that he will encourage the Israeli government to take as hard a line as it pleases on settlements and all other disputed issues. Knowing that the U.S. won’t put any distance between its position and Israel’s ensures that the Israeli government can keep doing what it has been doing indefinitely. Now that Netanyahu’s coalition government is more stable than ever, there will be no political incentive for him to take any risks that resuming negotiations might entail. Romney and Netanyahu are both considered to be risk-averse political actors, and there is no obvious political advantage for either of them in doing what Goldberg suggests here. We don’t know what a policy of increased U.S. pressure on Israel would achieve. Obama never applied any real pressure to try to extract the concessions he wanted. We can also be reasonably sure that such a policy won’t be attempted in the foreseeable future.

Even less plausible is Goldberg’s suggestion that Romney is less likely to order an attack on Iran:

And, as I’ll argue in my next column, Obama is more likely to take military action against Iran than Romney is.

It is possible that Obama and Romney are equally likely to order such an attack, since their Iran policy views are virtually indistinguishable from one another. It is also quite possible that neither of them would start a war with Iran, because both might recognize or be forced to acknowledge the great risks and horrible costs that such a foolish course of action would involve. Just as Romney might decide that satisfying his party’s warmongers isn’t worth destroying his presidency as Bush did, Obama might not want to wreck his legacy by starting an incredibly unwise war. Having rejected containment, both Obama and Romney might feel constrained to follow through on their commitment to use force against Iran.

What isn’t credible is the idea that a Romney administration that will almost certainly be stuffed to the gills with militarists and Iran hawks is going to be less likely to attack Iran than Obama’s. There may not be much substantive difference between the two candidates’ positions on Iran, but Romney appears to be entirely beholden to his party’s hawks, and he has been reliably listening to the hard-liners among his advisers. There is no evidence that Romney thinks military action against Iran is unwise, and many of his advisers believe it to be imperative. We have seen what happens when an inexperienced governor surrounded by hawks becomes president, and it isn’t peace.

Update: One part of what I said above is no longer true. Kadima is reportedly leaving the government’s coalition because of disagreements over revising the Tal Law.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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