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Why Would Realists Bother Advising Romney?

Harlan Ullman offers Romney some advice he is unlikely to take:

In the midst of a nominating fight that seems vampirish in that opponents refuse to die, Romney must have little to no free time. Finding space to immerse himself in foreign policy tutorials will be exceedingly difficult. That said, Romney still must find some reliable mentors who are bipartisan when it comes to foreign policy. Former national security advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski and past senators such as Sam Nunn and Chuck Hagel are people with wisdom, experience and value.

These are not bad recommendations as far as they go, but why would Romney seek their counsel? While the disagreements between these men and Romney’s current advisers are not nearly as great as they would all claim, Scowcroft and Hagel represent a strain of Republican foreign policy that is increasingly rare and unwelcome among leading Republicans. Nunn and Brzezinski aren’t even Republicans. It’s possible that these individuals would feel obliged to offer Romney their advice as an act of public service, but I can also imagine that none of them would want to waste their time offering advice that they have to know would never be followed. Scowcroft’s correct warnings against the invasion of Iraq were scorned by much of the GOP at the time, and Hagel’s protest against the “surge” resulted in his marginalization inside the party. Romney has made great sport of comparing Obama to Carter and casting both in an extremely unflattering light, so why exactly would Carter’s National Security Adviser want to help Romney improve his understanding of foreign policy?

This goes beyond Romney and these individuals. Romney has embraced a number of foreign policy views that many, if not most, foreign policy realists would consider wrongheaded if not dangerous and irresponsible. For their part, Romney and his foreign policy advisers seem to regard most foreign policy realists with disdain and occasionally loathing. Naturally, they would qualify their disdain for realists by saying that their views aren’t realist (or realistic) at all, and there are some self-styled realists among Romney’s advisers, but for the most part these are people who consider realist to be something more like a pejorative insult than a description. It’s fair to say that this is one of the reasons Romney’s foreign policy is of such poor quality, and it’s also why Romney is unlikely to heed the advice of realists.

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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