The Election 2012 Weekly Report: Drumbeats of August
Obama and Romney spar on Afghanistan At a surprise appearance at the daily White House press conference on Monday, President Barack Obama addressed a number of foreign-policy issues, notably Syria and Afghanistan. On Syria, the president seemed to rule out U.S. military intervention to topple Bashar al-Assad’s regime, though he also issued a stark warning ...
Obama and Romney spar on Afghanistan
Obama and Romney spar on Afghanistan
At a surprise appearance at the daily White House press conference on Monday, President Barack Obama addressed a number of foreign-policy issues, notably Syria and Afghanistan. On Syria, the president seemed to rule out U.S. military intervention to topple Bashar al-Assad’s regime, though he also issued a stark warning on the use of chemical or biological weapons. "We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus," he added. That would change my equation."
He also said the U.S. military needs to beef up its vetting process for Afghan troops following a series of lethal "green on blue" attacks on U.S. troops by their Afghan counterparts. There have been 32 such incidents this year. "We have got to make sure we are on top of this," the president said, promising to discuss the problem with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. (Karzai later blamed the attacks on foreign spies.)
Mitt Romney criticized the president on his handling of the war this week, telling a gathering in New Hampshire, "When our men and women are in harm’s way, I expect the president of the United States to address the nation on a regular basis and explain what’s happening and why they’re there, what the mission is, what its purpose is, how we’ll know when it’s completed."
The Obama campaign struck back, with spokesperson Lis Smith saying that Romney has refused to detail his own plan for withdrawing from the war. "If he does have some secret plan, he owes it to our men and women in uniform to tell them," she said.
Ryan on the attack
At the same New Hampshire rally, Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan spoke at length on foreign policy for the first time. He called Iran "an existential threat to Israel” as well as "our own national security" and discussed the Middle East peace process, arguing that "when President Obama made the 1967 borders the precondition for the beginning of negotiations, it undercut our ally." Ryan was referring to a speech last year in which Obama made the case that "the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps," comments that led to a minor kerfuffle with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
On Thursday, the Romney campaign unveiled a new energy plan that the candidate says will allow the U.S. to achieve energy independence by 2020. The plan involves deregulating the oil and gas industry, opening up more federal lands and offshore waters to drilling, and approving the Keystone XL pipeline between the United States and Canada. In a policy paper released this week, the campaign accuses Obama of having intentionally "sought to shut down oil, gas and coal production in pursuit of his own alternative energy agenda."
Beating the Iran drums
With more signs emerging this week that Iran is continuing — or even accelerating — work on its nuclear program, despite covert sabotage efforts, Romney’s campaign advisors have been ratcheting up the calls for military action, though as FP’s Josh Rogin notes, they differ on the specifics. In an article for the Weekly Standard, former White House aide and Romney campaign advisor Elliot Abrams argues that the time has come for Obama to ask Congress for an authorization for the use of military force against Iran, as a way of reassuring Israel that he is serious about preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. "This is the way for him to show seriousness of purpose, and for Congress to support it — and send an unmistakable message to the ayatollahs," he writes.
Meanwhile, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton argues in the Washington Times that Israel should not count on the United States to take action and should instead "make its own military decision, preferably one based on physics, not politics." Bolton also suggested that U.S. policy may not change fast enough for Israel even if Romney wins, prompting an Obama campaign spokesperson to suggest he had gone "off message."
What’s in the GOP platform?
The GOP platform prepared last week will be released on Monday, ahead of the GOP convention. Other than a last-minute change from "Czechoslovakia" to Czech Republic, the foreign-policy sections of the platform have gotten less attention than what the document says about abortion and Medicare. FP’s Uri Friedman runs down what we know about the platform so far. It includes a section on "Unequivocal Support for Israel," including recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital after the creation of a Palestinian state, support for increasing the U.S. military budget — over the howls of the party’s libertarian wing — and the first-ever GOP plank on "Internet freedom."
The latest from FP:
Michael Levi argues that Romney’s plan still won’t free America from Mideast oil.
Lawrence Korb, Max Hoffman, and Robert Ward say Ryan’s defense budget plan is actually closer to Obama’s than Romney’s.
Peter Feaver asks why Obama rarely talks about the war in Afghanistan anymore.
Josh Rogin reports on the inflammatory Facebook postings of the former Navy Seal leading attacks on Obama.
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating
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