Monday, May 07, 2007

Mitt Romney: Stupidity on Steroids?

A number of commentators (Kevin Drum, Spencer Ackerman, Daniel Larison) have picked up this little nugget from the last GOP presidential hopefuls debate. Remember, Mitt Romney likes to come across as a tough guy. He recently claimed he was a lifelong hunter, but never had a license and went on only two hunting trips in his life (that's not much more than me-- actually, that's two more than me...) But there's something about Republicans needing to prove their manliness by being willing to shoot things, or (more likely) ordering others to do the shooting. And any sign of thoughtfulness, of introspection, is a sign of weakness. So, when asked about Bin Laden, Romney jumps straight into Arnie-mode:

"We'll move everything to get him. But I don't want to buy into the Democratic pitch, that this is all about one person, Osama bin Laden. Because after we get him, there's going to be another and another. This is about Shi'a and Sunni. This is about Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the worldwide jihadist effort to try and cause the collapse of all moderate Islamic governments and replace them with a caliphate. They also probably want to bring down the United States of America. This is a global effort we're going to have to lead to overcome this jihadist effort. It's more than Osama bin Laden. But he is going to pay, and he will die."
This little nugget encapsulates everything that is wrong with the Republican approach to national security. First, the obligatory cowboy rhetoric.. "he will die!!!". But more importantly, the appeal to simplistic rallying cries makes for an incredibly stupid foreign policy, a continuation of the disastrous Calvinist-inspired Manicheanism of the Bush administration that led to the present ruinous debacle in Iraq. Romney is lumping together groups that do not belong together, just to prove he is a non-nonsense tough guy. Here is Ackerman:
"Mitt Romney's War: the total conflation of all Islamist movements. Not only is the Muslim Brotherhood not a jihadist organization, but its very lack of jihadiness is what spawned Ayman Zawahiri's Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Suffice it to say that there is no caliphate on heaven or earth that will simultaneously satisfy Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, which goes a long way toward explaining why there is no concerted "worldwide jihadist effort" by these groups to establish one. "
And Larison:

"Ackerman is right that Romney’s remarks in the debate make no sense, but they are worse than he thinks. Not only is there “no caliphate on heaven or earth that will simultaneously satisfy Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood,” Hizbullah presumably wouldn’t even want a caliphate at all, since the last intertwining of Shi’ism and ideas of having a khalifat as such was in Fatimid Egypt more than a few years ago. Plus, the Fatimids were Ismailis (though not, strictly speaking, Seveners), and Hizbullah today is from the Imamiyyah or Twelver Shi’ite branch, which makes the likelihood of this predominant strain in Iranian and Lebanese Shi’ism indulging dreams of a restored caliphate in Cairo (where no Shi’ites today dwell) even more remote."
Now, understanding these distinctions requires a modicum of intelligence and thoughtfulness, or at least a willingness to learn. But this is exactly what the modern Republican party, with its premium of folksy populism, will not give us. Hence we are left with the simplistic "with us or against us" rhetoric that isolates decision making from all notions of history, context, culture, and nuance. Instead, every enemy is part of the march of "islamofacism", a term decried by Larison as possibly "the most stupid of the current century". So, simply to appease Romney's sense of manliness, we need to accept an utterly vacuous and dangerous foreign policy." More Larison:
"Romney shares in their profound confusion (or deliberately misleading rhetoric) for the same reason: all these diverse and disparate groups must be brought together under a single, frightening label and they must be made out to be enemies of America, whether or not these descriptions are plausible, true or reasonable.....In other words, the word we use to describe our enemies must be meaningless in order to accommodate the maximum number of enemies. If there were ever a politician who was perfectly suited to an age in which words should be entirely malleable and subject to the political needs of the moment, it would have to be Romney. Romney and rhetoric about Islamofascism were made for each other."
How thoroughly postmodern. It would be comical if it were not so tragic...


Anonymous said...

Yo, NRA Guys!

My name's Mitt Romney
I'm running for President


Well it was just a varmint or two but what the heck. I mean, here was me - 200 lbs, gun in hand - stalkin this squirrel that musta weighed close to 90 grams. And that danged thing could RUN! It was an epic struggle of endurance and strategy and intelligence - me and that squirrel. A kbattle to the finish but I won. Shot him dead!



Chris said...

'Islamofascist' was regurgitated endlessly by Rick Santorum during his campaign last year. It just made him look desperate and comical.
So much for the fear factor--he lost by something like 20 pts.