I still think it makes no sense, but here is Paul Weyrich’s explanation of his endorsement of Romney. The section on Romney’s foreign policy views strikes me as the weakest in the defense of the endorsement. On the life and gay marriage questions, there are obviously going to be social conservatives who believe Romney is now sincere in his very newly discovered beliefs and those who think he cannot be trusted. It seems futile to rehash all the reasons why Romney isn’t credible on those questions, since many people simply take him at his word that he just happened to change his mind at the same time that he was contemplating higher office. Those who are already willing to look past the man’s naked opportunism, or who see it as a genuine conversion, will not be persuaded by another round of the same arguments.
However, it is on foreign policy where there seems to me to be the greatest gap between the views of someone inclined towards a non-interventionist or even realist foreign policy and those of Romney. First, Romney’s foreign policy receives fairly faint praise:
In the defense arena, Mr. Romney is a strong supporter of missile defense. I believe he would make President Reagan’s vision of a strategic defense initiative come true. I also believe he would be far more cautious than the current administration when it comes to nation-building. He is much more realistic than those who believe in making nations safe for democracy.
This last part may be true, though it is a little hard to discern from what Romney has said publicly. What can be said is that Romney’s understanding of the Near East is both ignorant and incoherent, and his hostility to Iran is well-known. What is striking about this section is that these are presumably the best things that Mr. Weyrich can say about Romney’s foreign and defense policy views. We get no sense of what Romney’s views on the war are (for one thing, he doesn’t think that the war is a “disaster,” as Messrs. Weyrich and Lind have correctly described it), nor will the audience hear about his loopy idea of indicting Ahmadinejad under the Genocide Convention. We hear only about missile defense and a soothing claim that Romney is much more “realistic” about nation-building and democracy promotion without any particulars to support this. The trouble is that Romney is otherwise not terribly “realistic” in the rest of his foreign policy views, and doesn’t really see a meaningful distinction between “realists” and “neoconservatives.” As he said in his FA essay:
More broadly, lines have been drawn between those labeled “realists” and those labeled “neoconservatives.” Yet these terms mean little when even the most committed neoconservative recognizes that any successful policy must be grounded in reality and even the most hardened realist admits that much of the United States’ power and influence stems from its values and ideals.
You couldn’t ask for a more typical Republican establishment interpretation than this. Romney believes that “even the most committed neoconservatives” understand that policy must be grounded in reality–those are the words he and his campaign have used. That seems irreconcilable with the record of many leading neoconservatives, whose grasp on reality was and remains tenuous.
Later, Romney makes clear that he thinks that large-scale post-1991 demobilisation and defense reductions (which were actually begun under a certain Defense Secetary whose name begins with C and ends with -heney) were mistakes. He evidently believes that maintaining the size of our Cold War-era military was something that we needed to do in the early ’90s, even though there was no rationale for having such a large force. Indeed, unless one thinks that we should be engaged in multi-year occupations of other countries with no clear end in sight, a larger military makes little sense even today. There is relatively little that an antiwar conservative or simply a foreign policy realist could find in Romney’s views that would be reassuring.
George Ajjan had additional comments on Romney’s essay at the time.