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Who Won the Foreign Policy Debate: Romney Proves He is a Disaster on Foreign Affairs

As President Obama and Mitt Romney talk foreign policy during Monday's debate, voters must understand what they are getting themselves into with Mitt Romney's foreign policy team.

For live coverage of the presidential foreign policy debate on Monday, including real-time analysis and coverage, see here.

In 1998, a group of foreign policy gurus signed a letter to then-President Bill Clinton requesting that he launch a war against Iraq without regard for the United Nations Security Council, or any type of due process, to quell what they believed to be a clear and present danger to Israel, the United States, and its Middle Eastern allies. Clinton ignored this letter. Then in 2001, nine days after September 11th, this same group, now under the name “Project for a New American Century (PNAC),” signed a similar letter to a much more compliant president, George W. Bush.

In 2003, as the neoconservative war drums beat to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Israel found itself in the middle of a war that it knew was illegitimate. Israel supported the U.S. in its volition for war because the Bush administration promised that Iran — Israel’s perceived real threat — was on the chopping block in the future. Once the assurances went around, Israel became more than happy to find “evidence” that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and support the U.S. campaign.

Today, Israel is ready to collect the debt owed to it by the neocons, but where have they gone? And are they the same group that sunk the U.S. into debilitating war resulting in the deaths and injuries of countless American and Iraqi lives for the last nine years?

Although the now defunct PNAC and other sympathizers no longer have one roof over their heads, they have found other institutions to hang their hats.

Start with Mitt Romney’s foreign policy team. Fifteen of the 22 members were policy advisers under the George W. Bush administration, and six of them are former members of PNAC. Romney's foreign policy white paper, ironically (or purposefully) titled “An American Century,” uses the same rhetoric used by PNAC and Bush-era ground pounders: It promotes American exceptionalism, force projection, and retaking control of the global landscape with seemingly little zest for earnest diplomacy. This makes sense since the report is authored by Romney's foreign policy team, complete with a foreword by Eliot Cohen himself. It is no wonder that Romney is overly hawkish on the Iranian “threat,” since the neocons owe Israel — big time.

Think-tanks are nurseries of U.S. foreign policy. PNAC has transformed into the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI). On their homepage, visitors are slapped in the face with “The Case for Regime Change in Iran,” front and center at the time of this writing. Gary Schmitt, a former Senior Fellow at PNAC and the Director of Advanced Strategic Studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a right-wing think tank that houses Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, co-authored this report. Robert Kagan, FPI’s Director is a “special advisor” on Romney’s foreign policy staff. Eric Edelman is a counter-proliferation advisor on Romney’s staff and also a fellow at FPI.

But it isn’t just FPI that the neo-neocons are calling home. They have stormed the halls of the Hudson Institute (Douglas Feith, Lewis “Scooter” Libby), The Brookings Institute (Robert Kagan), and numerous other institutions that, in theory, are meant for non-partisan, unpoliticized, and unalienable political discourse to find constructive solutions to foreign policy issues. Sadly, this is only the shortlist of names entrenched at high levels of the policy community.

The American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) thinks highly of these policy advisers, who are all ardent supporters of the Israeli desire to end Iran’s nuclear program with force if necessary, and who try to instill fear that Iran’s nuclear program is about to or has already moved to weaponization and is creating a threat to the U.S., Israel, and allies. The proof, however, simply isn’t there; not in the IAEA reports, not in intelligence reviews, nowhere. The error is not in merely supporting Israel; it is instead in the support for Israel regardless of whether or not American and Israeli interests align.

Being hawkish on Iran is dangerous; unlike Iraq, Iran can defend itself and already has an insurgency waiting and ready. The possibility of a preemptive attack is very real if Romney, who understands little if anything about international relations (much like George W. Bush) allows his foreign policy team to steer the ship with reckless abandon.

Iran poses no threat to the American homeland, but it could to Israel. This is much of the reason neocons advocate for forceful interjection, since they view Israel as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East and a springboard for American interests in the region, even though Israel rarely seems to act with those interests in mind.

Just like in Iraq, there is no verifiable proof of WMD in Iran, yet once again the same group of people want to use the same methods to start a similar war for the interests of the few, with no regard for the consequences.

Is there any difference at all this time? Of course: They’re much better at hiding it.

For live coverage of the presidential foreign policy debate on Monday, including real-time analysis and coverage, see here.

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