This isn’t the first time someone tried to read the Romney tea leaves on what he would do with foreign policy, but it may be getting easier as he stakes out more concrete positions. Even so, there is a lot that we don’t know. We know Dan Senor is on the job. Does that mean the neocons have the upper hand on messaging, policy, or both? (I’m not sure the case is closed and would expect Dowd–someone young Republicans might aptly call a “hater”– is conclusive.)
Senor is emblematic of how much trouble America blundered into in the Middle East — trillions wasted, so many lives and limbs lost — because of how little we fathom the culture and sectarian politics. We’re still stumbling in the dark. We not only don’t know who our allies and enemies are, we don’t know who our allies’ and enemies’ allies and enemies are.
As the spokesman for Paul Bremer during the Iraq occupation, Senor helped perpetrate one of the biggest foreign policy bungles in American history. The clueless desert viceroys summarily disbanded the Iraqi Army, forced de-Baathification, stood frozen in denial as thugs looted ministries and museums, deluded themselves about the growing insurgency, and misled reporters with their Panglossian scenarios of progress.
“Off the record, Paris is burning,” Senor told a group of reporters a year into the war. “On the record, security and stability are returning to Iraq.”
Before he played ventriloquist to Ryan, Senor did the same for Romney, ratcheting up the candidate’s irresponsible bellicosity on the Middle East. Senor was the key adviser on Romney’s disastrous trip to Israel in July, when Mittens infuriated the Palestinians by making a chuckleheaded claim about their culture.
Wondering who the neocons are? These are good reads to let you know that once upon a time there were Republicans who believed in a strong defense (not offense) and made policy based on realpolitik considerations rather than efforts to remake the world for democracy or insert-your-ideal-here.
- Jacob Heilbrunn, They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons
- James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet
- Francis Fukuyama, America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power and the Neoconservative Legacy
- Justin Vaisse, Neoconservativism: The Biography of a Movement [NYT review]