Throughout most of his campaign, as well as during Monday’s presidential debate, Mitt Romney has taken strong, uncompromising stances on an array of countries for supporting terrorism or tyrannical actions and policies. Yet during Monday night’s debate, there was one country where Romney seemed to take a 360 on in regards to this “zero-tolerance” approach.
Despite illiberal policies and continued support for fanatical terrorist groups by factions of the government and military, Romney strongly warned against any type of weakening or severing of U.S.-Pakistani relations. Regardless of these crimes, he explained, the U.S. must stay engaged with the rogue nation because of their possession of nuclear arms.
Although I’m not one especially in support of severing U.S.-Pakistani relations, this position by Romney struck me as curious. For, does not Russia and China also possess nuclear weapons? Yet Romney has declared the former as our greatest geopolitical foe and has assured voters that he will take a strongest stance against the Putin regime. He also attacked President Obama for working with the Russian regime and signing the START Treaty as a means to reduce global nuclear arms.
Yet, under Romney’s Pakistan-logic, shouldn’t the U.S. also keep its ties close with Russia to gain better purview over their nuclear arsenal?
And shouldn’t our rhetoric about China and its currency manipulation be less harsh for fear of cutting ties with a nuclear regime?
This Pakistan-policy isn’t as stupid or reckless as much of Romney’s other foreign policy stances. The old Godfather adage of “keep your friends close, your enemies closer” is often a sound one in foreign policy—one that readily escapes much of the conservative foreign policy establishment nowadays.
Personally, I believe the U.S. needs to take a stronger stance against factions within the Pakistani government and military, especially those who harbor ridiculous anti-India ideologies and support barbaric fundamentalist groups who end up doing things like shooting fourteen-year-old girls in the head for speaking their mind. But I can see the logic behind why a continued or tweaked form of engagement with the country could have a better effect.
Yet, I find it hard to believe that this stance is a genuine one. In a debate where Romney found it difficult to establish daylight between his and Obama’s policies on Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya, this Pakistan pronouncement seems more a political opportunity to disagree with President Obama than a well-thought out foreign policy agenda. Like as with much of Romney, it’s more politics and less actual candid policy.