The Price of Romney’s Ignorance about the Middle East

According to a July 28 article in the New York Times entitled “Obama and Romney Strain to Show a Gap on Foreign Policy”, Mr. Romney has recently accused President Obama of allowing the Arab World to slip into conflict by not pressuring autocratic regimes in the Middle East before the Arab Spring began almost two years ago. Mr. Romney went as far as to assert to Hayom, an Israeli newspaper, that President Obama “has abandoned the freedom agenda”, referring to President Bush’s aggressive pro-democracy policies in the region. 

Unfortunately, this is yet another preposterous claim by Mr. Romney, who in the course of his foreign policy campaign has managed to offend China, Russia, and even the United Kingdom, one of our most valued allies. His assertion that it was the actions of President Obama that “lost” the Middle East are completely unfounded and completely ignore the sectarian and ethnic conflicts in the region, its post-colonial history, and socioeconomic issues that constantly plague the region.

Contrary to his opponent’s statements, President Obama has for the most part done well in showing his solidarity with the Arab World throughout his tenure in the White House. Following his 2009 speech in Cairo confirming his support of the Muslim world and of peace in the region, he has ended the war in Iraq, stuck to the timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan, deferred to the UN in handling the situations in Syria and Libya, resisted pressure to military invade Iran, and pressed Israel to halt its settlement of the West Bank until a more permanent solution can be found to the problem. On the other hand, Romney has managed to further inflame the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through his reckless comments last week about Palestinian culture and economics, stating they were inferior to those of Israel’s. Additionally, Romney has openly advocated invasion of Iran and a continued military presence in Afghanistan indefinitely. 

There are certainly areas where Mr. Obama could seriously review his policies, drone strikes against civilians and the continued operation of Guantanamo Bay being two major ones. However, through his actions, Mitt Romney has shown that his ignorance of the complex and delicate situation in the Middle East would cause him to pursue disastrous policies. 

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