On Foreign Policy, Romney Promises Bush Redux

If there’s one must-read on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, it’s Kurt Eichenwald’s op-ed in the New York Times, in which he illustrates the extent to which intelligence agencies had warned the Bush administration of Osama bin Laden’s activities on American soil. The most striking detail is the fact that the infamous August 6 memo—“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”—was preceded by a series of documents, stretching back to the spring of 2001. For example:

By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat.

This revelation has significance beyond 9/11. Many of these same neoconservatives are advisers to the Romney campaign, and are pushing the Republican nominee to double-down on the blinkered, belligerent policies that defined the first four years of George W. Bush’s presidency. The Nation’s Ari Berman notes that “Of Romney’s forty identified foreign policy advisers, more than 70 percent worked for Bush. Many hail from the neoconservative wing of the party, were enthusiastic backers of the Iraq War and are proponents of a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran.” In his cover story for The Prospect, James Mann notes that Romney's inner circle includes Dan Senor, former spokesperson for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and a founder of the Foreign Policy Initative, a key neoconservative organization. 

It’s worth noting that, as he began this campaign, Romney explicitly positioned himself as a restoration of Bush's more aggressive foreign policy with a book titled “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.” Indeed, up until recently, his speeches were peppered with a promise to never “apologize for America,” and to demonstrate our strength to “America’s enemies,” like Iran. Yes, Romney has a moderate persona, but he’s given every indication that he plans to pursue a Bush-style foreign policy, helmed by the same group of disasterously wrongheaded neoconservative advisers.