With Governor Romney now the presumptive Republican nominee, it might be expected that foreign policy – hitherto the absent ghost at the political feast – might take a more prominent role. This is an area in which the Democrats – somewhat unusually – are feeling confident. On April 26th Vice President Biden delivered a robust defense of the Administration’s record, highlighting “tough decision” like the killing of Osama Bin Laden and the isolation of North Korean and Iran. He also faulted Romney’s self-acknowledged inexperience in this field and claimed that his proposed policies would return the US to the George W Bush era. Senior Republican foreign policy advisers to Romney have privately acknowledged to us their concern that President Obama enjoys a solid political position on international affairs and that it may be unproductive for the Republicans to attack him on that front. Instead, they are advising that Romney should focus on international economic policy so as to bring the discussion back to the domestic economy. We do expect Romney to probe for weaknesses on a few flash points – reduced defense spending, Israel and Iran, for example – but otherwise we do not expect foreign policy to play a decisive role. For the moment, most commentators agree that the Democrats have less need to feel concerned about charges of national defense “weakness” than is usually the case. The public’s relative disinterest in foreign affairs is nowhere better illustrated than on Afghanistan. Here, despite next month’s NATO summit in Chicago, discussion is confined to expert circles. Despite substantial worries from insiders, there is little public dissent from the Administration's line that, following the Western drawdown in 2014; the Afghan government and military will be able to uphold stability. On Iran, tension continues to ease in advance of the next round of talks on May 23rd in Baghdad. Pentagon contacts assure us that on his recent visit Defense Minister Barak accepted that no immediate military action is called for. As before, US officials remain deeply concerned about prospects for the presidential election in Egypt. A senior State Department analyst commented to us: “Egypt’s orientation seems to be in the balance. If this unravels, we will be dealing with an entirely different Middle East landscape.” In Asia, the Mat 3rd-4th session US-China Economic and Strategic Dialogue is being held amid signs of easing tensions with Beijing, but may be overshadowed by the flight of a Chinese dissident to the US Embassy.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 11:18 AM