Mitt-Man’s Foreign Policy Mess and I
My Dear Gibson Bateman,
I am Sid Harth.
Since you have done such a good job of exposing Mitt Romney campaign’s lack of focus on US foreign policy, what am I to add to it?
Just yesterday, I tried to make a point, the same point that you made in simple but elegant terms, (my words) “Uncle Sam ain’t no superpower and Mitt-man’s foreign policy advisers are not even talking to each other, what a mess.”
Have a nice day in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Is it hot enough for you?
…and I am Sid Harth@webworldismyoyster.com
American Foreign Policy and the HRC Resolution on Sri Lanka
Image courtesy Onlanka News
Obama and Human Rights
The Obama administration did fight to get a seat on the Human Rights Council (HRC) in 2009; something that George W. Bush probably did not even contemplate. And, as David Bosco has noted, the US has been relatively active at the HRC since that time. Bosco goes on to say that “The United States has laid special emphasis on the Council’s use of special experts, individuals given a mandate to investigate some particular country or human rights theme.” On the other hand, the Obama administration’s approach towards experts wanting to examine US policy has been rather mixed, especially “when UN experts request information about sensitive areas of national security and counterterrorism policy.”
Since the dawn of the Cold War, it has always been easy to question American intentions when it comes to human rights. That said, Obama’s escalation of drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere is disturbing. It reveals a very high tolerance for (inevitable) civilian casualties and an inability to see that the proliferation of such attacks is harmful to US interests over the long-term. A recent New York Times article about President Obama’s management of a ‘Kill List’ is not helping matters.
George W. Bush was a walking contradiction when it came to human rights, but, in many ways, President Obama’s policies have been even worse than those of his predecessor, especially as it relates to counterterrorism. Obama loyalists need to stop pretending that the president cares about international human rights; the president’s record on foreign policy does not support such a notion.
Strong, bipartisan US support in defeating the LTTE aligned almost perfectly with America’s broader “Global War on Terror,” a cause venerated by most of the American foreign policy establishment.
All of this makes me wonder what was driving US diplomatic efforts in Geneva last March. Not least because, on the same day the HRC resolution was passed, the US State Department announced a loosening of restrictions to sell surveillance equipment to the Sri Lankan government. In spite of what the US government says, it is hard to see the two developments as completely unrelated. Was the resolution mostly about human rights? Or was it mostly just about power? Was it a reminder that America’s selective application of human rights continues under Barack Obama’s watch?
Perhaps an equally important question is the following: What will happen at the Human Rights Council if Obama is not reelected?
A Mitt Romney Presidency
Were he to defeat Obama, I do not think anybody is expecting an especially progressive or nuanced foreign policy from Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate. Most of the people advising Romney on foreign policy are consummate Washingtonian insiders, reluctant to acknowledge American decline or contemplate what a more humble foreign policy can and should look like. Besides, there are times when Romney has shown a profound lack of understanding about America’s strategic priorities on matters of foreign policy and national security. This spring he proclaimed that Russia was America’s ‘number one geopolitical foe.’
It is true that the US presidential election will be decided on domestic issues, not foreign affairs. Nevertheless, Romney’s inability (or unwillingness) to articulate a coherent (and more modest) foreign policy is not what one would hope to see from a future commander-in-chief. He needs to go beyond empty rhetoric about “American greatness.”
A Romney presidency would probably herald foreign policy continuity more than anything else, though Romney might place less emphasis on creating the veneer of multilateralism that Obama has usually been keen on.
The Twenty-Second Session of the Human Rights Council
I have no idea what the Rajapaksa administration is thinking, but they do not seem to be taking the resolution passed at the HRC’s 19th session very seriously. One can already envision a speech by a senior government official in March 2013 saying something like the following: The government of Sri Lankan has carefully selected many, many good recommendations after thoughtful deliberation with a variety of actors, but that, unfortunately, there are just so many recommendations that have been selected…..and Sri Lanka is just coming out of its thirty year defeat of terrorism….so more time is needed. People need to just be patient while the government quietly implements some LLRC recommendations….please be patient and check back in a couple years.
Were the Rajapaksa administration to dismiss the HRC resolution, it is difficult to predict what the backlash would be. At this point, it is hard to imagine that there would be much of an appetite for another, tougher resolution against Sri Lanka. And it is hard to imagine that the US would lead the way again; getting the watered-down resolution passed at the 19th session was difficult enough. It is even harder to imagine that the US would push for greater action at the HRC (on any issue) if Mitt Romney were to be elected president in November.
The HRC resolution on Sri Lanka was important, although there are still many reasons for people to be skeptical about what can be accomplished at the Council. The door has been left open for continued scrutiny of Sri Lanka’s human rights record; even though there is still a very real chance that empty rhetoric and hollow promises from the Rajapaksa administration will be enough to forestall more meaningful action at the HRC. There is a significant group of (mostly powerful) countries that intermittently champion good intentions but face few consequences for their respective inconsistencies. Whether the current regime in Colombo can add Sri Lanka’s name to that list remains to be seen.
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This article was written with certain bias against Mitt Romney campaign, obviously.
Personally, I am not a fan of the campaigns. However, I respect the campaigns of both Obama and Romney. They may achieve their respective goals in their own way.
Long time ago, I slapped some other media report over such treatment about Obama campaign. If any campaigns violate ethically, they be mentioned negatively.
Romney campaign was very bullish on the foreign policy, at one time, a definite faux pas. Nobody wants foreign wars, not even Republican voters.
It is all about domestic problems. Jobs, Infra-Structure, Economy and Sovereign Debt.
Barack and Mitt dance around these major issues as both have no guts to admit that if and when each is elected, te problems would be gone. For four years or more.
Coming back to these problems, it was George W Bush‘s doing. Not Barack Obama’s. Keep that in mind. I do.
…and I am Sid Harth@webworldismyoyster.com
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Old rivalries dog Romney foreign policy team
Wed, 27 Jun 2012 18:34 GMT
Source: reuters // Reuters
* Advisers come from both moderate and “neocon” factions
* Some campaign, party officials say divisions overstated
* Critical open letter to Obama missing notable signatures
By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON June 27 (Reuters) – Little more than four months before the U.S. presidential elections, Republican hopeful Mitt Romney’s foreign policy team is facing the same kind of internal rivalries that dogged the administrations of Ronald Reagan and both George Bushes.
Romney’s official campaign website lists 42 official foreign and defense advisers, including some of the Republican Party’s most prestigious experts, many veterans of past administrations.
But the team includes personalities strongly identified with contending factions whose internecine battles have dogged Republican foreign policy circles for a generation. One, more pragmatic, group is known as the “moderates.” Members of the other, with a harder ideological edge, are loosely known as “neocons,” short for neo-conservatives.
Already, fights have broken out over touchstone issues such as Russia and China, according to individuals close to the campaign.
One Romney campaign contributor who has interacted with the outside advisers said they held only one meeting as a group, in the offices of former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. It ended in an argument between moderates and neocons over Afghanistan policy.
Some Republican heavyweights from the more pragmatic, realpolitik school, including President George H.W. Bush national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, have declined thus far to endorse Romney.
Vigorous debates are common within any presidential campaign, and it remains to be seen whether those in the Romney camp become a major problem, much less endure should he become president.
Campaign spokespeople and Romney partisans described the foreign policy debates as healthy – and aimed at giving the presumptive nominee the best advice. Some suggested the complaints represent the griping of advisers who are on the campaign’s margins, with little access.
Andrea Saul, a Romney campaign spokeswoman, denied that its foreign policy team was bogged down in feuding and dysfunction.
“The foreign policy advisory team is a group of respected experts who work collectively, collegially, and closely to provide their best advice to Gov. Romney. He evaluates their opinions and ultimately make his own decisions on policy. Any rumors to the contrary are simply false and uninformed speculation that demonstrates a deep unfamiliarity with the campaign’s decision making,” Saul said.
Most of Romney’s public foreign policy pronouncements have leaned toward the conservative side of the spectrum.
On occasion, the former Massachusetts governor, has evoked the Cold War. In a March interview with CNN, he called Russia “without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”
On Iran, Romney has laid down a hard line, saying: “If I am president, I will begin by imposing a new round of far tougher economic sanctions on Iran … I will back up American diplomacy with a very real and very credible military option.”
And Romney has harshly criticized Obama for announcing a timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan, saying in February: “Why in the world do you go to the people that you’re fighting with and tell them the date you’re pulling out your troops? It makes absolutely no sense.”
A long-time Republican activist who has been in contact with some of the Romney camp’s more centrist elements said that moderates “are very concerned about the fact that if Romney needs to call anyone, his instinct is to call the Cheney-ites.”
This is a reference to acolytes of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Several top former Cheney aides are among Romney’s advisers.
But they also include prominent moderates such as Chertoff; former CIA and National Security Agency director General Michael Hayden and Mitchell Reiss, a former State Department official and prominent advocate of peace talks with the Afghan Taliban. (Romney himself has not taken that position).
“LIKES DIVERGENT VIEWS”
A Republican source aligned with some of the party’s conservative elements said there have been “huge fights over policy” which have roiled the Romney adviser corps, resulting in full-time staffers trying to limit Romney’s public statements on foreign policy.
Richard Williamson, a senior Republican strategist who advises Romney, acknowledged a “difference of views” among the advisers, which he characterized as normal for a presidential campaign.
But Williamson denied the campaign was plagued by factional squabbles.
Campaigns “by their nature” involve some infighting, said Williamson, whom the campaign made available to Reuters. He said that Romney “likes divergent views.”
“I think that’s a plus,” Williamson said. “I look at it as healthy… I find it comforting that Mitt Romney makes up his own mind.”
Richard Grenell, who was briefly the Romney campaign’s foreign policy spokesman but resigned after controversies erupted over his archive of tart twitter messages and support for gay rights, said that in practice, the campaign relied on a fairly small array of advisers for day-to-day operations.
This meant it was possible some official and would-be advisers felt isolated from the candidate. “If an adviser is saying that Mitt Romney’s campaign is … chaotic, it’s because they’re not being used,” he said.
People familiar with campaign operations said that day-to-day handling of foreign policy was largely in the hands of full-time campaign staff and that only a handful of outsiders regularly talked with Romney about foreign affairs.
One of the principal gatekeepers to the candidate is Alex Wong, a young lawyer who holds the campaign staff title of Director of Foreign, Defense and Judicial Policy.
Williamson is also said to have Romney’s ear.
While not promoting himself as Romney’s foreign policy guru, Williamson confirmed that he had helped prepare Romney for primary debates. He also said he had “never had a problem getting my views in the mix” or to Romney.
Republican sources characterized Williamson generally as a “moderate” figure whose credentials as a one-time close aide to Ronald Reagan likely protect him from the kind of obloquy some conservatives have directed towards other moderates on the Romney team.
HARDLINE OPEN LETTER
One of the few other prominent Republican foreign policy figures who several campaign sources said also had frequent access to Romney is John Bolton, a Cheney ally and former State and Justice department official and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
Bolton, who has made several campaign appearances for Romney, has fiercely attacked President Barack Obama, suggesting at one point, while on the stage with Romney, that Obama “has done almost everything possible to weaken the United States, to jeopardize our interests and our friends around the world.”
In late March, after Obama was overheard telling then Russian President Dimitri Medvedev that he would “have more flexibility” after this year’s election, Bolton and 35 of Romney’s other listed advisers signed an “open letter” to the president. It raised a series of hardline points about topics such as missile defense, Iran’s nuclear program, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and Israel’s standoff with the Palestinians.
Notable by their absence from the list of signatories were Chertoff and Hayden, the co-chairs of the Romney campaign’s “working group” on counter-terrorism and intelligence, as well as five other advisers listed on the Romney campaign website.
A Romney aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the campaign could not reach some of the seven in time, and others had a policy of publishing their opinions on their own. (Additional reporting by Lauren French; Editing by Warren Strobel and Eric Walsh)
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