Posted by on October 11, 2012 in Blog

The Romney-Ryan ticket may be energizing the GOP base, but as an AP report noted, the ticket is “light on foreign policy credentials.” Historically, most presidential and vice-presidential duos have had some background in foreign policy and national security issues, particularly within the Republican Party, which “has long sought to project strength on those issues.”

In and of itself, this isn’t necessarily an indictment on Romney’s ability to appropriately handle foreign policy matters, but combined with recent revelations of potential foreign policy picks in a Romney cabinet, the picture looks far less rosy.

An article in Foreign Policy aims to identify candidates for “top jobs in a Romney administration,” and many of the potential choices have raised a few eyebrows. According to the article:

 “…contenders for Romney's NSA are technocratic officials who have served in top policy positions in GOP administrations before, including former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman, former NSC Middle East staffer Elliott Abrams, or former State Department Policy Planning director Mitchell Reiss. Campaign aide Dan Senor, who has been closely advising Romney on all thing [sic] Middle East, could be in line for a deputy NSA slot...”

The characterization of these figures as “technocrats” is surprising, given their deeply-held and widely-known ideological and political convictions toward neoconservative foreign policy goals.


Eric Edelman, who currently serves as a foreign and defense policy advisor for the Romney campaign, has a long and close relationship with former Vice President Dick Cheney, and has consistently advocated for a more militaristic approach to the Middle East. In a recent article for Foreign Affairs, Edelmen encouraged “clandestine action, and the threat of military force” toward Iran. During his stint as George W. Bush’s ambassador to Turkey, he was characterized in the Turkish press as “probably the least-liked and trusted American ambassador in Turkish history.”


Elliott Abrams, the well-known Middle East fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was a key foreign policy advisor for the George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan administrations, earning a reputation as “a legendary bureaucratic infighter and outspoken neoconservative.” After being convicted (and pardoned) for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, Abrams played a significant role in the hardline policies pushed by the Bush administration after 9/11, urging preemptive attacks against Iran, compromises with Palestinian positions during peace negotiations, and staunch support for the invasion of Iraq. He also serves on the board of the Middle East Media Research Institute, a group with a documented racist past, and shadowy ties to Israeli Likud members. His wife, Rachel Abrams, recently referred to Palestinians as “slaughtering, death-worshiping, innocent-butchering, child-sacrificing savages.”


Mitchell Reiss, arguably the most moderate member of the list, was the director of policy planning under Secretary of State Colin Powell, and has even openly supported negotiations with the Taliban to end the conflict in Afghanistan. The likelihood of Reiss securing a top foreign policy spot is slim, however, and most analysts acknowledge that “the hardliners on Romney’s team have sidelined moderates like Mitchell Reiss.”



Dan Senor, most well-known for his whitewashed depictions of the Iraqi occupation as a spokesperson for the Coalition Provisional Authority, is a renowned neoconservative hardliner. The New York Times has noted that his “presence in the tight orbit of advisers around the Republican candidate foreshadows a Romney foreign policy that could take a harder line against Iran, embrace Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move away from being the honest broker in the conflict with Palestinians.”


With the exception of Reiss, any of these individuals at the helm of Romney’s foreign policy agenda could herald a deeply dangerous return to failed policies that have already engendered distrust, disenchantment, and radicalization across the Arab world. Of course, the Foreign Policy article is purely speculative, but considering the tenor of Romney’s campaign about the Arab uprisings, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and other such issues, that reality could well be close at hand. 

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