With Mitt Romney’s announcement of the foreign policy team that will be counseling his campaign, the former Massachusetts governor has dispelled any remaining mystery about his own outlook. He has likewise done away with any illusion that he is “moderate” on diplomatic and national security issues — or that his nomination would mark a departure from his party’s incredibly costly global blunders of the past decade.
If Romney is elected, the nation can evidently expect more of the same, for the names he has listed are all too familiar to anyone who remembers the unhappy history of deception, disgrace, and war in the last Bush administration. Discredited though they may be, the neoconservatives — with all their bloody baggage — are back.
Or as Romney himself put it: “Their remarkable experience, wisdom, and depth of knowledge will be critical to ensuring that the 21st century is another American Century.” A stirring statement to be sure, except for its eerie echo of the Project for A New American Century (or PNAC), the lobbying organization set up by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, his sidekick Robert Kagan, and a neoconservative coterie to promote war with Iraq (and possibly Iran, too). Conspiratorial thinking was not required to fix considerable blame for the Iraq fiasco on PNAC and its founders, several of whom, including Kagan and former Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky, have now turned up among Romney’s top advisers.
Near the top of the Romney roster is Cofer Black, the former CIA official whose idea of “taking the gloves off” after 9/11 led the United States government into systematic use of torture, rendition and other “dark side” disgraces that helped ruin American prestige internationally (and failed to dispatch Osama bin Laden, Black’s primary responsibility that was only fulfilled long after he left government). Upon leaving the Bush administration, he took an executive position at Blackwater Associates, the infamous private army, and then founded an outfit ominously known as “Total Intelligence Solutions,” which dispenses “security” advice to corporate leaders. What sort of advice Black provides to Romney isn’t clear, except that he urged that American politicians should never describe waterboarding as torture and thus besmirch the good name of the United States. (Although if we had avoided the actual practice of waterboarding — a crime for which the U.S. prosecuted Japanese war criminals after World War II — we might not have to worry so much about our reputation in the first place.)
Those nostalgic for the dark comedies of the Bush years will also recognize the names of Robert Joseph, a former National Security Council official responsible for counter-proliferation, and Dan Senor, an investment banker who served for a couple of years as the spokesman for the “Coalition Provisional Authority” in Baghdad. Joseph was implicated in the fakery about an Iraqi nuclear program that led to the Iraq invasion. Senor actively participated in misleading the public about the consequences of that blunder on a daily basis, as the mouthpiece for the disastrous post-Saddam administration set up by the White House under Paul Bremer.
Further down the list are such figures as Eric Edelman, a former Pentagon official who once berated Hillary Rodham Clinton, then serving in the U.S. Senate, for asking how and when the Bush administration planned to withdraw American troops from Iraq. “Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq,” he barked inappropriately, “much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia.” And then there is Nile Gardiner, a British national, ultra-conservative, and former Unification Church devotee, who is thinking deep thoughts about Europe for Romney. Gardiner once said that we would only discover why we had invaded Iraq after the fall of Baghdad, when records proving Saddam Hussein’s collaboration with Al Qaeda would fall into our hands. (Is he still waiting for that?)
The experience of these individuals was “remarkable,” indeed, if rather painful for everyone else. Perhaps they have mulled over the past, and in that “wisdom” perceived only by Romney, they will urge him to avoid the stupidity, corruption, waste, bloodshed, and tragedy caused by the policies they have supported so fervently over the past decade. But probably not. Their predominant role in his campaign should be ample warning to war-weary voters, who may still wonder why we spent $4 trillion to underwrite a government in Baghdad whose closest allies are the dictatorial mullahs in Tehran.