WASHINGTON Paul Ryan has not sauteed in foreign policy in his years on Capitol Hill. The 42-year-old congressman is no Middle East savant; till now, his idea of a border dispute has more likely involved Wisconsin and Illinois.
Yet Ryan got up at the Values Voter Summit here Friday and skewered the Obama administration as it struggled to manage the Middle East mess left by clumsily mixed U.S. signals toward the Arab Spring and the disastrous legacy of war-obsessed Republicans.
Ryan bemoaned the slaughter of brave dissidents in Syria. Mobs storming American embassies and consulates. Iran four years closer to gaining a nuclear weapon. Israel, our best ally in the region, treated with indifference bordering on contempt by the Obama administration. U.S. foreign policy, he said, needs moral clarity and firmness of purpose.
Ryan was moving his mouth, but the voice was the neocon puppet master Dan Senor. The hawkish Mitt Romney adviser has been secunded to manage the running mate and graft a Manichaean worldview onto the foreign affairs neophyte.
A moral, muscular foreign policy; a disdain for weakness and diplomacy; a divine right to pre-emption its all ominously familiar. You can draw a direct line from the hyperpower manifesto of the Project for the New American Century, which the neocons, abetted by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, used to prod an uninformed president into invading Iraq a misguided attempt to intimidate Arabs through the shock of overwhelming force. Hows that going for us?
After 9/11, the neocons captured one Republican president who was naive about the world. Now, amid contagious Arab rage sparked on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, they have captured another would-be Republican president and vice president, both jejune about the world.
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. Were still stumbling in the dark. We not only dont know who our allies and enemies are, we dont 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 U.S. 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 candidates irresponsible bellicosity on the Middle East.
Paul Wolfowitz, an Iraq war architect, weighed in on Fox News, asserting that President Obama should not be allowed to slither through without a clear position on Libya.
Republicans are bananas on this. They both blame Obama for casting Hosni Mubarak overboard and for not supporting the Arab Spring.
Romneys cynical braying about Obama appeasement in the midst of the attack on the American diplomatic post in Libya was shameful. Richard Williamson, a Romney adviser, had the gall to tell The Washington Post, Theres a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, youd be in a different situation.
Hes right a scarier situation. If a President Romney acceded to Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahus demand for clear red lines on Iran, this global confrontation would be a tiny foretaste of the conflagration to come.