Romney's Strategy

08.17.12

Add Reinhold Niebuhr to Romney's Ticket

Frum Beast blog intern alumnus Ryan Prior has an essay at the American Conservative website, where he argues that Mitt Romney should more openly embrace a foreign policy based on principles and ideas developed by Reinhold Niebuhr. He suggests that this would allow Romney to critique Obama with more credibility and also give his campaign a foreign policy vision:

These are lessons not altogether different from what Americans should take from the Iraq experience. Romney could more credibly critique Obama’s foreign policy if he brought the debate up to this level, rather than conjuring up a straw man from a time warp. He now appears likelier to repeat the mistakes of Iraq rather than learn from them. If he were to articulate a vision of how to respond to the Iraq debacle, of the uses and limits of intervention, he might gain traction.

Demonstrating a proper restraint in the use of power would be a good beginning for Romney. But he could do more to demonstrate a much-needed long view of American foreign policy. As it stands, Niebuhr is a window into Obama’s worldview and his motivations for using power. But however useful this background is for ad hoc decision-making, it has not led to an Obama Doctrine or a long-term strategy for America’s role in the world.

Romney has so far been an amateurish foreign-policy candidate. To win over his skeptics, he must recognize the strength of Obama’s deliberative style, then best him by articulating a set of coherent general principles to guide future foreign policy. Needless to say, the hysterical reaction to the Zoellick appointment among some of Romney’s biggest supporters is not encouraging.