It should go without saying, but apparently does not, that the tragic crisis unfolding in the Middle East calls for sober statesmanship rather than political posturing. The jihadist murder of the American ambassador to a newly liberated Libya; the carnage unleashed by the Assad regime on the Syrian people; the emergence of a Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt; the conundrum of Iranian nuclear ambitions — the region presents decades worth of complex challenges telescoped into real time.
Responding to these challenges, Mitt Romney mixes crude political theater with neocon bromides. Attacking President Obama for supposedly apologizing to Islamic radicals, he appears unable or unwilling to understand the responsibilities of a president trying to deal with a volatile situation while Americans are in harm’s way.
Romney shows no respect for diplomacy in general. He declares that “God did not create this country to be a nation of followers” and maintains that “in an American century, America leads the free world.” His surrogates repeatedly mock President Obama’s “apology tour” and his unfortunate “leading from behind” formulation on Libya. His principal advisers, John Bolton and Dan Senor, are part of a neocon hard core that opposes any policy that would diminish American sovereignty or freedom of action. Yet faced with the vexing issue of whether the Middle East should be further roiled by an Israeli attack on Iran in an attempt to stop its nuclear program, Romney is willing to outsource that decision to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Speaking earlier this week, Netanyahu said that if the Obama administration was unwilling to set fixed red lines that Iran could not cross, it “has no ‘moral right’ to restrain Israel from taking military action of its own.” The fundamental moral and political issue here, however, is whether it is the sovereign prerogative of the United States to make the decision of whether to start a regional war, a war that will certainly require American resources and may well require American troops to finish.