Mitt Romney Needs to Provide Us With More Than Playground Bravado

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On a more serious note than I ended with last night, it’s worth a moment to do a little more than just mock Richard Williamson, the Romney advisor who insisted that if Mitt Romney were president, we’d be in a “different situation” in the Middle East. Those riots in Egypt? They wouldn’t have happened thanks to Romney’s “resolve.” Ditto for Libya. And Yemen.

At one level, of course, this is just dumb campaign bravado. Your guy is weak and vacillating and our enemies laugh at him. My guy is strong and resolute and our enemies fear him. But it’s also nonsense. Reagan’s resolve didn’t stop Lebanese militants from bombing a Marine barracks in Beirut. Bush Sr.’s resolve didn’t stop Saddam Hussein from invading Kuwait. Bush Jr.’s resolve didn’t stop al-Qaeda from destroying the World Trade Center and killing 3,000 Americans.

This kind of thing makes for pretty speeches, and Republican audiences lap it up. But there’s nothing behind it. And it’s especially laughable in Romney’s case, since “resolve” is about the last thing anyone associates him with. Even his own supporters barely trust him not to change his long-held positions at the first whiff of political convenience. So if Romney truly has some ideas about how to improve our Mideast policy (aside from asking “how high” whenever Bibi Netanyahu tells him to jump) then he should let us know what they are. So far, though, he’s been noticeably silent about just how he would have responded to the Arab Spring and how he’d respond to it in the future. Until he provides us with some concrete ideas on that score, instead of the pabulum he’s shared so far, nobody should take his playground bravado seriously.

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