Romney can (rightly) assert that when Iran’s regime looked at Obama’s administration, “I think they saw weakness where they had expected to find American strength.” He mentions Obama’s original policy of engaging Iran and of failing to support the demonstrators in Tehran’s streets. Romney’s strongest assertion is that the world is four years closer to a nuclear Iran, but what could he have done or what could he do differently? Romney didn’t make a persuasive case, except for one critical point.
That point was best articulated by Obama:
The central question at this point is going to be: Who is going to be credible to all parties involved? And they can look at my track record, whether it’s Iran sanctions, whether it’s dealing with counterterrorism, whether it’s supporting democracy, whether it’s supporting women’s rights, whether it’s supporting religious minorities.
And they can say that the President of the United States and the United States of America has stood on the right side of history. And that kind of credibility is precisely why we’ve been able to show leadership on a wide range of issues facing the world right now.
Aside from the humorous notion—albeit one accepted by many Americans and promulgated generally by the mass media—that Obama has credibility in the Middle East or that he has protected women and religious minorities–there is something shocking in what he said.
Let us assume that that the Progressive Party had won the 1948 elections and the American president had not covertly interfered in countries like France and Italy to help ensure the Communists didn’t win elections. Let’s assume that the United States had not engaged in other interventions that today are generally reviled. Instead that president might have said that helping a solution in Greece, for example, with a Communist electoral victory would be showing that America was on “the right side of history.”
Instead, U.S. governments, both Democratic and Republican, followed a national interests’ defined policy. They did not assume the “right side of history” meant observing matters of process or letting the other side win in the belief that it would become moderate.
Obama and his supporters are definitely Progressive in the same sense as those who would have lost—indeed, never have fought—the Cold War.
Romney’s main argument is that the United States is worse off in foreign policy terms than it was four years ago:
Look, I look at what’s happening around the world, and I see Iran four years closer to a bomb. I see the Middle East with a rising tide of violence, chaos, tumult. I see jihadists continuing to spread, whether they’re rising or just about the same level, hard to precisely measure [talk about crippling diffidence! –BR], but it’s clear they’re there. They’re very strong.
I see Syria with 30,000 civilians dead, Assad still in power. I see our trade deficit with China…growing larger every year….
So it is silly to argue about who won the debate. What’s important is which vision of the international reality Americans will believe when they cast their ballots.
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