One Question for a Romney Win
Two thirds of the American presidential debates are now history. The conventional wisdom now sees the 2012 presidential race as a dead heat; or let's say one for Romney and a draw for Obama so far. The challenger might have been two for two had he not stubbed his toe over the one foreign policy issue that should have been a slam dunk.
Obama scored some points on the Benghazi fiasco, on a technicality. The President did mention terror; once after Ambassador Stevens and his staff were murdered. The thrust of Romney's argument was spot on, but the categorical statement that the president didn't use the word "terror"was a slip of the lip, the kind that journalists love to exploit. Someone on team Romney screwed the pooch. Had Romney focused on weeks of administration mendacity instead of semantics, round two would have been another win. Clearly, Romney has superior presence, debating skills, and command of the facts. Republican staff work and the details of opposition research are another matter.
Unfortunately, the next subject for debate is foreign policy, where Barack Obama now has a leg up. In fact, both candidates would probably like change the subject. Obama has outsourced his foreign policy to a general officer corps who seems to have lost touch with their professional integrity; the new euphemism for the absence of military victory is "transition." America seems to be losing a second small war, this time in slow motion, to the Taliban. And that seems to be OK with Mitt.
At the same time, Romney is making noises also about a larger US role in Syria, another case for regime change in the Middle East; or NATO again trying to pick winners and losers. Since the first Afghan war in South Asia and the Arab coup in Tunisia; America and Europe have not picked a single winner in the Sunni world. If Iran, and the Persian Shia, are included, US the foreign policy record in the Muslim world nothing is short of disastrous. Policy in the West has facilitated the rise, indeed the triumph, of Sunni and Shia religious parties and associated extremists.
And now, allied support for civil war in Syria is too transparent. Deposing Alawites will surely isolate Shia Hezb'allah in southern Lebanon. But siding with Sunni factions panders to Turkish and Saudi interests not US or Israeli security; the obvious blowback is a strengthened Sunni hand against Israel on all flanks. In case anyone is keeping score, according to US State Department bookkeeping, Sunnis still do most of the killing in the name of jihad. The wedge strategy, taking sides, this divide and conquer mythology are all mindless. The West does not have a dog in the Shia/Sunni fight. Both sides hate European good intentions, American naïveté, and Israeli national aspirations with equal passion.
Surveys of public opinion, where possible, in Arab and Muslim lands have two consistent themes; anti-Jewish sentiment, which is overwhelming in Arabia; and the belief that Muslim pathologies are the fault of outsiders, Europeans or Americans in particular. Alas, the Media in the West continues to foster the myth of Islamic moderation.
Consider the ongoing uproar among journalists over Malala, the young Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban. Were this girl Jewish, would she be a global celebrity? Who remembers the names of those Jewish kids executed in Mumbai? How many Russian school children were massacred by Islamists in Beslan in the name of a Caucasus caliphate? And what is the name of the Jewish school girl shot in the face, and killed, in France by a home grown Arab fanatic?
The western Press would like to spin the Malala story into another Muslim moderation myth, Pakistanis yearning for learning and sexual equality. The truth is more like Christina Lamb's the Sewing Circles of Herat where women are treated like "insects in the dust." The painful lesson of the Malala wounding is that the brave girl's tragedy is a logical outcome of Muslim culture; societies dominated by Islamist politics and chauvanism; religious parties like the AKP, the Taliban, and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Obama administration thinks they can do business with the Taliban. If the Malala story cannot alter the Islamist bias in Foggy Bottom and the Oval office; it's hard to know what ever will. The Obama doctrine is the best argument for change - regime change in Washington, DC.
So before a stubbed toe turns into a broken leg; Romney needs to plant his foreign policy flag on the only civilized and democratic high ground in the Middle East. That would be Israel.
In the next debate, George Romney needs to begin with a simple question. He needs to ask why Obama has not visited Israel in four years. Romney needs to make Obama explain the apology tour to the Muslim world after Saudi Islamists attacked New York. Obama must also explain why so-called "allies," in places like Afghanistan and Libya, continue to assassinate our soldiers and diplomats. And Obama needs to explain why America needs to rationalize every Arab or Muslim barbarity -- and why America must continue to apologize for what seems to be a very sick Muslim culture. In short, Romney needs to ask the President to explain how America benefits from another four years of anti-Jewish, pro-Muslim pandering.
When President Obama stops stammering, Mr. Romney needs to state his unequivocal support for the one true democracy in the Middle East. And then Mitt needs to pledge to underline that support with a state visit to Israel, and Jerusalem, in the first year of a Romney administration.
Begin the foreign policy debate with that one question, Mr. Romney. If President Obama cannot answer the Israel question, you may be two for three just in time for the election. Just one question for the win; and then maybe America gets back on the right side of civilization -- and history.
G. Murphy Donovan writes frequently about politics and national security.