Romney Cedes US Policies to Israel

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s “conservative” foreign policy contrasts with what many past GOP conservatives have advocated, such as Romney’s blunt assertion that he will follow Israel in setting U.S. policy in the Middle East, writes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

Anthropologists have only partially constructed the evolutionary paths of modern mankind and of human species that have died out. There is not necessarily direct progression from known species of one era to those of a later one.

The same is true of the varieties of homo politicus americanus, even though the fossil record is more complete because it is more recent. Contributing to confusion is the application of similar labels to very different sub-species at different times.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Such thoughts arise in reading Jacob Heilbrunn’s insightful commentary on the revisiting of the Richard Nixon story by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. As Heilbrunn correctly points out, it was the Right and not just the Left that distrusted Nixon, with backward-looking liberals having perhaps more reason than conservatives to remember favorably many of Nixon’s policies. But the meaning of Right and Left in the United States has changed significantly since Nixon’s time.

The lineage of the conservative opposition to Nixon included Senator Everett Dirksen, who when nominating the conservative Robert Taft at the 1952 Republican convention pointed down at Thomas Dewey and said, “Don’t take us down the path to defeat again.”

It included Barry Goldwater telling conservatives at another Republican convention eight years later, conservatives who were not happy about Nixon getting the presidential nomination, to “grow up” if they wanted to take control of the party. It included Goldwater’s winning of the nomination four years after that, Ronald Reagan’s primary challenge in 1976 to Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford, and Reagan’s eventual electoral triumph in 1980.

But any ancestral lines from Reagan to the Right of today are at best tenuous and muddled. On many domestic and fiscal policies, it is hard to see any lines at all. According to former Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett, Reagan’s tax increases, which he endorsed in return for spending cuts, totaled the equivalent of $367 billion in current dollars.

This past weekend former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush commented that both his father, Reagan’s vice-president and successor, and Reagan himself would have had a hard time winning a nomination from today’s Republican Party.

On foreign policy, it is misleading to describe Reagan’s approach, as Heilbrunn does, as having “essentially repudiated the Nixon-Kissinger approach to foreign affairs by substituting a combination of the old rollback doctrine and neoconservative anticommunism.” Reagan’s underlying assumptions about the USSR had something in common with those of George Kennan, in that they both foresaw the crumbling of the Soviet system from within due to that system’s inherent weaknesses.

Reagan did give the process a nudge by declaring an arms race, knowing the United States could always outspend the Soviets. There also were proxy wars, but they were much less a factor in the eventual crumbling. Stoking the Afghan insurgency may have been partially an exception, but that started as a project of Zbigniew Brzezinski and Jimmy Carter, whom no one can accuse of being neoconservatives.

There was nothing in Reagan’s policies anything like the neoconservative trademark, seen most clearly with the Iraq War, of trying to use U.S. military force to inject American values directly into benighted foreign lands ruled by loathed regimes.

Like Nixon and Kissinger, Reagan engaged with the chief foreign adversary of the day. And as with Barack Obama, a long-term (beyond any one presidency) objective of that engagement was the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons.

Some of the senior figures in Reagan’s administration, though not Secretary of State George Shultz, did not seem to believe Reagan really envisioned a nuclear-weapons-free world, and in any case did not accept that objective themselves. Cold Warriors such as Caspar Weinberger and William Casey seemed content, or even anxious, to wage that war forever.

In the two decades since the presidencies of Reagan and the elder Bush, a different subspecies, now bearing the label “conservative,” has evolved and has come to dominate a major portion of the American political environment. It is markedly different from previously dominant creatures who carried the same label as recently as 25 years ago, although one can find bits of genetic material from the likes of Weinberger or Casey.

The curious disjunction between the elder George Bush and the younger George Bush epitomizes the remarkable transition involved. Political anthropologists still have a lot of work to do in helping us to understand the evolution of this newer breed. Some attributes of the breed, such as a close link to revealed religion and a fixation on matters of the pelvis, may be rooted in larger societal trends or be reactions to those trends.

This political evolution can be considered part of an overall rightward lurch in American politics, but some of the most important characteristics involved cannot best be described in right-vs.-left terms. There are, for example, certain uses of the imperial presidency, with regard to which, as Heilbrunn aptly puts it, “next to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Nixon was a piker.”

Perhaps the most salient set of characteristics comprises a self-righteousness, an associated denial of legitimacy to political opponents, and a further associated resistance to compromise. These were the characteristics to which Jeb Bush was referring when he observed that Reagan, “based on his record of finding accommodation … as would my dad” would have had difficulty winning acceptance amid “an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement, doesn’t allow for finding some common ground.”

Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, in their recent work on dysfunction in the American political system, put it succinctly and bluntly: “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

The contrast between old and new is just as stark between some present-day congressional leadership and Everett Dirksen, who as Republican leader in the Senate, although he was a strong conservative on fiscal matters, worked closely and effectively with his Democratic counterparts and also was a key source of support for major aspects of Lyndon Johnson’s foreign policy.

The attributes of the new breed of conservatism have major implications for the foreign policy postures of today, including the positions of this year’s presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. The self-righteousness and resistance to compromise show through.

Those positions include unbridled confidence in the all-purpose efficacy of U.S. military power, spending to expand that power substantially without regard to either specific uses of that power or fiscal implications, acceptance of permanent conflict with adversaries (including even the legacy Cold War adversary, Russia), rejection of engagement with adversaries, and contracting out a major portion of U.S. foreign policy to the government of Israel.

Romney has said: “The actions that I will take will be actions recommended and supported by Israeli leaders.” This is very different not only from what Richard Nixon did but also from what conservatives who opposed Nixon favored.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

17 comments for “Romney Cedes US Policies to Israel

  1. Marc Schlee
    June 18, 2012 at 03:40


    Somebody shoot that ignorant corksucker.




  2. Hillary
    June 15, 2012 at 17:46

    Loyal Americans will put the interests of the USA first.

    Disloyal Americans will put the interests of a right wing Likud Israel above the best interests the USA.

    Let’s represent U.S. interests for once, instead of Israel’s

  3. charles caruso
    June 15, 2012 at 12:19

    When is someone going to mention the real reason Pollard’s sentence was so long? or Why Defence Sec Weinberger in a still classified letter demanded a life sentence, or who half the CIA has threatened to resign if the little slimebag is released? Google Seymour Hersh in he New Yorker and others for the answer, which is carefull ignored by the ‘media’.

    • F. G. Sanford
      June 15, 2012 at 15:11

      Yes-it’s been years since I read that-what he gave away in addition to millions of documents was RASINT, the ‘rosetta stone’ of American SIGINT (signals intelligence), a ten volume cook-book on how to decipher every type of intelligence transmission we use, and how we interpret all of their (Soviet and other) signal information. Everything from short-wave communication to satellite transmission-a virtual “how-to” on all of America’s cryptology secrets. It would make Bradley Manning’s revelations look like a bed-time story from the Brothers Grimm. We are still reeling from the damage done by Pollard. BUT, he’s a scumbag plagued by delusions of grandeur and a penchant for pathological lying. The Israelis will be sorry they got him back within six months. If ever there was a miscarriage of justice, it’s that he didn’t get the death penalty.

  4. eCitizen
    June 15, 2012 at 06:13

    Sheldon Adelson has promised to pour as much as $100 million into GOP coffers. Do you think that might have something to do with Romney’s stance on Israel?

    A source inside the Adelson camp told Forbed that “Adelson believes no price is too high to protect the U.S. from what he sees as Obama’s ‘socialization’ of America, as well as securing the safety of Israel.”

  5. Marilyn A.F.
    June 14, 2012 at 12:44

    Israel becomes the global ‘problem’ because the laser microscope is always focused on Israel. It almost seems that she is the universal diversion, the magician’s sleight of hand misdirecting the eye.

    Meanwhile, back at reality ranch, dangers to civil society and sovereign borders go on unnoticed and unabated. The scenario articulated in so many editorials and articles defies logic; power cannot be so lopsided. Rerigging the world’s central pivot points will not be conducted in Israel.

    It will be a global team effort. If you aren’t aware of this simple thesis, it is because you don’t want to know. You prefer the comfort of willful ignorance rather than coming to grips with soul-chilling disclosure.

    In ‘wag the dog’ humor, which is which? Depends on whom is telling the joke.

    • F. G. Sanford
      June 14, 2012 at 15:18

      There is no Santa Claus, and Mexicans don’t have nuclear weapons.

      • Marilyn A.F.
        June 14, 2012 at 18:03

        Thank you for your careful reading and taut rejoinder. I have come to expect this type of cognitive disconnect between mind and matter. It is a defense mechanism.

        Apparently you think the North American Union (Mexico/Canada/US) initiative issues from an alternate reality. Are you following the gyrations of the eurozone meltdown? Are you comfortable with hopes that such discord can’t boat across the Atlantic?

        Spy drones over American cities don’t ruffle your feathers? You are happy with the smackdown of labor in Wisconsin and agree the riots across Europe are an EU problem? You are a progressive, educated individual who embraces all liberal causes because you want to be nice. And you probably voted Obama because he offered hope and change but mostly change from Bush. However, you may have buyer’s remorse–reluctantly.

        Good on you! You are a card-carrying American voter, smug in his own sense of self who will not be moved by facts. The borders are open to all comers; our army is fighting over there so we don’t have to fight them over here. Our local constabularies are armed to the teeth and returning veterans are the new enemy combatants.

        And you think birthers, truthers, tenthers and preppers are a bunch of wingnuts. It’s a free country; you have a right to practice your brand of forgetfulness knowing that road leads to repeating the same mistakes over and over. Good luck.

        I can only offer an opinion. You have to make personal decisions.

        • F. G. Sanford
          June 14, 2012 at 19:54

          We’re “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here”. In other words, we’ve embraced as national policy the Orwellian doctrine, “War is peace”. What you describe above is full-fledged fascism. Fascism never lets go. It is either defeated militarily or goes bankrupt. It is never mollified by political dissent. Europe’s crisis is not at risk of crossing the Atlantic: Europe’s crisis was engineered here and amounts to a propping up of the dollar as the world reserve currency. The economists won’t explain this to Americans. A mortgage on a home is a rare thing in Europe. They have nowhere near the debt we do. Their banks are in trouble, but they aren’t. There is massive wealth there based on cottage industry, craftsmanship, know-how and an educated workforce. We have abandoned all of that and shipped our manufacturing base overseas. See if you can find anything at Wal-Mart that wasn’t made in China. You can’t find ANYTHING made in China in a German department store. No amount of stimulus will cause American recovery, because other than munitions production, there is no industry to stimulate. We are going to crash, and there is nothing that can stop it. That’s why they are purchasing those 5.62X45mm weapons with hollow point ammunition, a maiming weapon banned by the Geneva Conventions which they purport to be for “personal defense”. They’re getting ready for civil unrest. Our entire Mideast policy is based on an unspoken program to maintain control over their resources. Rather than invest in progress at home, they’ve decided it is cheaper and more profitable to maintain this national security charade and essentially steal everybody else’s oil. We have to prop up Israel in order to pull it off. So, between illegal Mexican immigrants and a nuclear armed lunatic theocracy, I prefer the Mexicans. The sooner it happens, the sooner we get it over with. But regarding truthers, they should check the law as it’s written. You don’t have to be born here to be President. But he was born here and he is the President, fair and square.

          • Marilyn A.F.
            June 15, 2012 at 20:17

            Economics is hardly my area of expertise: I only know what I read, have tried to absorb as I worked my way around the BS chatter meant to further confuse the issues.

            Credit swaps and derivatives were a foreign idiom to me. Listening to a two-or-three episode discussion on PBS (think it was “Frontline”), the scathing investigation was not sympathetic to Wall Street banksters, pointing out that some sat behind computers and invented these toxic financial instruments out of thin air, similar to a class exercise.

            It was a stunning admission that our government agencies–SEC and congressional committees–dropped the ball…

            the question hung in the air: was it on purpose?

            The offshoring and outsourcing of industry and services were planned and executed with precision, and cannot be written off as an ooops.

            Gearing up for civil unrest has been in the planning stages for decades. With each succeeding administration, from Reagan to Obama, the intentions of the global ruling junta have been creeping with stealth into fruition. It is my believe that nothing is happenstance, especially in politics. The meltdown of the financial sector worldwide is a prelude to organizing the central governing body; the EU has been a beta test and what they are experiencing will soon wash ashore here.

            Last, regard O’Bambi’s birth. He has no legit long-form certificate. If he had one, he would not have spent millions covering his tracks. He is a legal citizen of Indonesia; his legal name is Barry Soetoro. He traveled to the US as a foreign exchange student, entering Occidental College in CA; he traveled to Pakistan on an Indonesian passport shortly after studies. Ealier, his mom had sent him back to Hawaii without bothering to reapply for his US citizenship; ergo, he would then have been a naturalized citizen, not a ‘natural born’ citizen.

            These are legal points that he has never clarified. As far as many are concerned, the questions add up to a muddled picture of a man who was invented by power brokers who found his dual race and religous affiliations useful. His SS number is suspect, as is his selective service number. We have a man with many faces sitting in the White House signing into law, under cover often, such abominations as the NDAA act and grabbing power most find treasonous.

            Just call me a paranoid conspiracy theorist but keep in mind, I did research and did not flinch from the facts. Information can be spun; facts stick like glue. The tragedy for Americans is that no one in power seems to be bothered by these anomalies. The vaunted media have averted eyes. The problems you describe are part of the global agenda.


  6. June 13, 2012 at 21:18


  7. Frances in California
    June 13, 2012 at 20:30

    Borat, if Romney becomes President (and Florida’s Rick Scott is doing all he can to steal the election for him), count on War with Iran, and me, giving you the lie as I cross the border, unable to afford to live in the USA anymore.

  8. June 13, 2012 at 19:31


    (GOP) Boys will be boys. Not men of honor, integrity and sincerity. Whereas the same muddleheaded ar making bunch of noise over “Who Leaked….” chant, pressing a non existent communications problem in governing the White House Script Writers Local, 77777.

    Imagine GOP men stepping up to the plate, when Mitt Romney, who has sold his soul to bunch of deep pocketed Jewish thug, making him cede US foreign policy to unknown and never to be known by name, paranoid Chimpanzees.

    All is well that ends American democracy into a pain in the rear end.

    Have a nice day.

    Night would be a nightmare time under Mitt-Man’s regime, I say.

    …and I am Sid [email protected]

  9. incontinent reader
    June 13, 2012 at 18:00

    Professor, this is a welcome analysis, and, it is good that you are holding Romney’s feet to the fire for his statement quoted in the last paragraph of your article, especially where a President applying it could effectively delegate away his responsibility to protect the national interest to a country whose interests often diverge or are at odds with our own.

    Yet, apart from how he has been seeking regime change in Iran, is the approach that is predicted for Romney so very different from what Obama himself has followed? Starting from the beginning of his Administration, when he stood by silently during Operation Cast Lead, to the present, Obama has generally kowtowed to, or been in lock step with Netanyahu, despite their tactical differences over how to bring down the Iranian government. Will Romney differ measurably from Obama on this? How much more could he up the ante and support for Israel without weakening the nation so much that his even his constituents would start to get the message?

    Beyond this, will he change what seems to have been an ongoing geopolitical strategy of many Administrations – e.g., to foment political dissent in Russia and China, contain Chinese and Russian influence and trade in Central, South and East Asia, and in the Middle East and Africa, and to bring about regime change in unfriendly or non-aligned countries? While one may worry what a Romney Administration will do- and, given his shadow cabinet, the anxiety is considerable- Obama has been revealed to be a stealth President who cannot be trusted, and whose policies in too many areas are dangerous or counterproductive. He has multiplied the number of U.S. military actions around the world, and increased the use of drone attacks, special ops black flag operations and media propaganda to destroy the civil society and economies and political leadership of countries who have never been a threat to our security, while substituting carnage and incalculable damage in its place, and he has intensified the assault on civil liberties at home, so much so that it no longer seems prudent not to clean house and start anew, rather than give him and his Administration a mandate to continue on the same mad course for another four years.

    • F. G. Sanford
      June 14, 2012 at 06:00

      Well said. Some great mind lamented the inherent flaw of democracy: the tyranny of a misinformed majority. In this race, both candidates have embraced the same strategy: see who can shove their nose the farthest up Netanyahu’s ass. I say, why reward bad behavior? Elect Romney, and let them both have a taste. Either way, we seem to be headed for a train wreck, and both candidates are eager to shovel more coal into the firebox. The voting public doesn’t seem to realize both trains are on the same track.

  10. Carax
    June 13, 2012 at 16:13

    God help America if Romney becomes president. But then, if this case, there is no such thing as the lessor of two evils. Both candidates represent the dysfunction in the American political system and, of course an ignorant and misinformed electorate. So, it’s out in the open now. America’s shadow government is Israel.

    • Hillary
      June 14, 2012 at 10:57

      “So, it’s out in the open now. America’s shadow government is Israel”.
      Carax on June 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm

      Wishful thinking I’m afraid !

      Publications, conferences and press releases of the Major American Jewish Organizations (CPMAJO) asked their members “to go all-out to fund and back candidates (mostly Democrats) who supported Israel’s military solution to Iran’s nuclear enrichment program” even though IAEA agrees that Iran is in total compliance with Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty rules while Israel violates them with impunity.

      At what point are Americans going to stop being puppets of Israel and stop the foreign aid, stop fighting their wars and hold them accountable.

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