James Anderson writes from Washington: Mitt Romney’s recent tour of Britain, Israel and Poland has produced mixed results, with the left making it look as if he made countless gaffes even though on balance everything he said was pretty lame and unexciting. (As if President Obama is a great foreign policy guru.)
The Republican presidential candidate has only made one foreign policy speech in the last nine months. However, he did put out a 50 page memorandum on how he sees the world. It did not provide answers to key questions like: what would he do if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, what would be his policy on Syria and how he would contain the rising power of China? Although, to be fair to Romney, he did provide some clues when he was in Israel. He said he would do everything possible to stop the ayatollahs acquiring nuclear weapons. He then reiterated in Warsaw the view that Russia, once set on the road to democracy, has turned back. He has accused the Chinese of manipulating the yuan to secure an unfair advantage. How would he try to resolve that issue? No answer was given on that account.
Why did he take time off from the really important issue: the American economy? He wanted to improve his credentials as the possible next US President who is, after all, the leader of the Free World. He wanted photo opportunities in various appealing locations. Israel was important for the Jewish vote which normally favours the Democrats. He regards Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would move the US Embassy there. However he put his foot in it by saying that the reason why Palestinians are not as wealthy as Israelis was cultural. Has it not something to do with the fact that they see themselves an as occupied people? In London he talked about the G4S security failure and the threat of immigration officers striking as the Olympics got under way. Insensitive but was he not repeating what the British press had been castigating the government for?
So what are his foreign policy views? Apart from the above little more was revealed. He does not have a staffer who concentrates full time on foreign policy. His team handled the foreign and US press badly. Their main gripe was the lack of opportunity to question Romney. The decision had clearly been taken that he was not well enough briefed on foreign policy to launch into a detailed debate with the press. It was wise to say as little as possible.
Will this count against him in America? No. Foreign policy does not figure in the ten top topics in the presidential race. America is not under threat so why bother with the outside world. They key question is the economy. If he can project a vision which is more seductive than that of Obama (a tough task at the best of times) he may win. The slowing down of the world economy is hurting America and Obama. The worst case scenario for the President is a Greek exit from the euro followed by the collapse of Spain. The fate of the Eurozone is outside his control.
Romney did not visit Russia, China, India and Brazil. He needs to do so to project his image as a potential world leader. Perhaps he may decide that staying at home is the best policy. Pressing flesh in Moscow and elsewhere will win him few votes. The world will have to accept that America is becoming more and more inward looking. –End–