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There Is No Bipartisan Foreign Policy Consensus Against Starting New Wars

Aaron David Miller takes a reasonable observation to its absurd extreme:

I raise the idea to drive home a broader point. Despite his campaign rhetoric, Romney would be quite comfortable carrying out President Obama’s foreign policy because it accords so closely with his own.

It’s true that Romney has been compelled to make up a lot of things about Obama’s record because there is no opening for him on a number of issues. There are many Obama administration policies that line up with what Romney already says he supports, and there may be others that he would end up supporting in office but pretends to dislike. There is a bipartisan foreign policy consensus on many issues, but this treats the reality of that consensus as proof that Romney’s foreign policy does not differ in significant ways from Obama’s. Consider one very dubious claim Miller makes in support of his claim that there is a bipartisan consensus in favor of ending wars and not starting them:

President Romney would have steered clear of unilateral intervention in Libya, and been as cautious as Obama (rightly) has been on Syria. (Iran is a special case, which I will address below.)

I have no idea where Miller gets the idea that Romney would have avoided intervention in Libya. I don’t dispute that he would have done things differently (he doesn’t “lead from behind,” you see), but there is no way that he would have exercised restraint when so many of the hawks in his party were insisting that the U.S. use force. On Syria, it’s harder to know for certain what Romney would have done or will do, but everything else he has been saying about U.S. “leadership,” Iran, and Obama’s supposed failures suggests that he would be unable to resist pressure to arm the Syrian opposition, and he might be willing to order military action. Obama and Romney may be hard to distinguish on Iran, but that is only because both Obama and Romney have said that they support waging preventive war against Iran. If there is a consensus here, it isn’t one opposed to starting new wars.

Miller blows off Romney’s biggest differences with Obama on Russia and China, which looks a lot like ignoring evidence that flatly contradicts his thesis. It’s one thing to say that Romney wouldn’t be able to implement all of his preferred policies toward Russia and China because of international realities, but it’s something else entirely to suggest that these rather glaring differences are meaningless. A good rule for understanding Romney’s foreign policy is that he is in favor of the consensus view so long as the consensus view favors more confrontational and intrusive policies.

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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