Thursday, May 3, 2012

Romney Minimizes Obama’s Role In Killing Bin Laden and Unfairly Insults Carter

As we reach the one-year anniversary of the late night Seal Team Six raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the White House is exerting more than a little energy reminding Americans of the administration’s most significant national security accomplishment – the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

The Romney campaign is working equally hard to minimize the gravity of President Obama’s decision to authorize the attack on Bin Laden’s suspected hideout. While campaigning in New Hampshire on Monday, Mitt Romney went so far as to relate to a group of reporters that “even Jimmy Carter would have given that order.”

Investigative reports indicate that the President’s decision to launch an attack on foreign soil was by no means a decision that could be made lightly. With an estimated 50% chance that Bin Laden might not actually be at the compound, and in light of potential complications that could have arisen with the Pakistani military, the decision was anything but the slam-dunk that Romney implies.

President Jimmy Carter
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
In his attempt to minimize the Obama decision, Romney also invokes the name of former President Jimmy Carter in a context which indicates that he views Carter as having been unqualified to conduct American foreign policy, implying that the 39th president was perhaps either too inexperienced or too cowardly.

It’s true that, for some Americans, Carter’s foreign policy street cred has been forever scarred, but the damage was done primarily by a singular notable failure - the inability to successfully resolve the Iranian hostage crisis, despite a military mission he authorized that attempted to do so.

Without arguing the merits of each individual foreign policy decision made during the Carter administration, it might be instructive to consider President Carter's international relations experience relative to Mitt Romney’s.

To that end, here are some important foreign policy credentials that Carter already has and Romney will never attain.
  • The ability to formulate thoughtful principle-based policy positions. Trust and consistency are key components in developing healthy international relationships. Carter’s personal integrity enabled him to gain the trust of leaders from nations as diametrically opposed as Israel and Egypt (the Camp David Accords), while Romney’s ever-shifting policy positions on key issues like abortion and health care prevent him from earning the trust of even his own party members.
  • A decade of military service. Carter graduated from the Naval Academy and then served as a naval officer for seven years. Romney has no military experience, as he enjoyed both educational and religious deferments during the war in Vietnam.
  • Nobel Peace Prize. Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for the work he has done (largely through the Carter Center) in support of human rights and international peace. Romney...has been chastised by a Nobel prize winner for posthumously baptizing Jews.
  • The Presidency. Jimmy Carter managed to actually win the national election in 1976 and served as the 39th president of the United States, while Romney, after an unsuccessful bid in 2008, hopes to perform better in his second run at the Oval Office in 2012. 
In addition to these credentials, one other important diplomatic quality that Carter possesses and Romney lacks is humility. If Romney thinks tough talk and false bravado are the most important international relationship tools a president must utilize, he might be better served to avoid further criticism of Jimmy Carter, and instead reflect on the foreign policy mistakes of the Bush administration.

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