Could Romney Really Improve America’s Standing in the Islamic World?

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SAID KHATIB / AFP / Getty Images

Palestinian Salafists in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, walk on top of a picture of U.S. President Barack Obama while burning Israeli and U.S. flags during a Sept. 14, 2012, protest of an amateur film mocking Islam

It’s hard to know, amid the chaos and confusion, just what is driving the anti-American demonstrations around the Arab world. Perhaps a ridiculous and amateurish movie about the Prophet Muhammad really is to blame; the White House insists that’s the case, and riots over sacrileges both real and imagined are hardly uncommon in that part of the globe.

At the same time, it’s clear that much of the Islamic world still holds a dim view of America. And that represents a significant failure of Obama’s presidency. The Pew Global Attitudes Project finds that approval of the U.S. has actually declined over the past couple of years, to a miserable 15%, following a small positive bump when a man with the middle name of Hussein took office. It’s easy to forget now, but improving America’s standing abroad — including in the Islamic world, partly with the goal of muffling radicalism — was a central goal of Obama’s presidency. Go back and read Obama’s spring 2009 speeches in Ankara and Cairo, in which he declared that the U.S. is not “at war” with Islam and pledged “a new beginning” between Muslims and the U.S.

Looking back, this may have been an example of the magical thinking that conservatives say defined Obama’s early appeal: the notion that his mere ascendance could shift deep-rooted political realities at home and abroad. But as was the case in domestic politics, hard realities quickly set in. Obama’s efforts to shutter the Guantánamo Bay prison camp were stymied. He completed America’s exit from Iraq — but escalated the Afghanistan war. He sharply accelerated a drone campaign that may now be as inflammatory to Muslims as the orange jumpsuits of Gitmo were. And while Obama initially pressured Israel over the peace process, infuriating many American Jews, Palestinians never believed he was an honest broker genuinely concerned with their welfare.

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So as the crowds swell outside American overseas embassies, Mitt Romney can fairly say Obama has failed at his own goal of rebooting America’s relations with the world’s Muslims. The catch is that there’s little evidence that Romney’s worldview would have produced a different result. Romney has argued that he would have projected more strength and “leadership” than Obama and never engaged in a global “apology tour.” (Never mind that Obama never issued apologies during his efforts to set a new post–George Bush tone abroad.) On Thursday night, Romney foreign policy adviser Richard Williamson argued that under Obama, “the respect for America has gone down, there’s not a sense of American resolve, and we can’t even protect sovereign American property.” This is what you might call the “strong horse” view of the Middle East. Romney has also argued that he would have continued Bush’s “freedom agenda” and done more to force dictators like Hosni Mubarak to implement political reforms that would allow for smoother and presumably more moderate transitions to democracy.

But it’s hard to see how, exactly, Romney’s approach would have left America better off today. For one thing, Romney mostly agrees with Obama on several flash points, including the Afghanistan surge, the continuing presence of Gitmo and the use of drones. As for the differences: Why would more pressure on Mubarak have meant less power for the Muslim Brotherhood, which now holds Egypt’s presidency? Given that American bellicosity in Iraq and elsewhere is a clear root cause of the animus we face, would a more aggressive tone and posture really make Muslim populations — and therefore their leaders — less hostile? And given that Romney insists he would be a more vigorous advocate for Israel’s interests, why wouldn’t that cause even more anger among those millions of Muslims who already resent the perceived unity between Washington and Tel Aviv?

All of which suggests three conclusions. One, that Barack Obama’s effort to change America’s image in the Islamic world has been a failure. Two, that Romney probably doesn’t have much better answers. And three, that anti-Americanism in the Arab world is an ingrained condition that has existed for decades — and that unfortunately may linger for decades to come, regardless of who our next President is.

192 comments
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BananaCharger
BananaCharger

The question should be, can he do any worse than our current president?

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

The GOP legislation awaiting Romney's signature isn't simply a return to the era of George W. Bush. From abortion rights and gun laws to tax giveaways and energy policy, it's far worse. Measures that have already sailed through the Republican House would roll back clean-air protections, gut both Medicare and Medicaid, lavish trillions in tax cuts on billionaires while raising taxes on the poor, and slash everything from college aid to veteran benefits. In fact, the tenets of Ryan Republicanism are so extreme that they even offend the pioneers of trickle-down economics. "Ryan takes out the ax and goes after programs for the poor – which is the last thing you ought to cut," says David Stockman, who served as Ronald Reagan's budget director. "It's ideology run amok."

Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/po...

shangda
shangda

Only Nixon can go to China. Unfortunately I think I'd prefer Nixon to Romney...

Satish Verma
Satish Verma

THE BIBLE  DOES NOT PREACH US TO  HURT THE FEELING OF OTHER RELIGIONS. IT IS THE EXCESS  MISUSE OF THE LIBERTY PROVIDED AS IN OPEN DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY. THE PEOPLE OF USA AND OTHER WESTERN SOCIETIES SHOULD RESPECT THE ISLAMIC FEELINGS.

Chris
Chris

Great  - now turn off your caps locks.

Aditya Aggarwal
Aditya Aggarwal

US cannot please muslims - This conflict is centuries old going back to crusaders day.

There are big cultural and religious differences! 

Romney would have made it worst compared to Obama as Muslims don't care about life and they don't fear about US power so much as they know how to manage the media and turn the tide against us using humanitarian excuse   

 Israel is one of the excuse. How can I back this - Russia was not supporting Israel but muslims fought against them in Afghanistan,Chechyna and other other places. 

Challenge will come to Europe very soon when Muslims will become majority. It is only 20 years in future due to high fertility rate 0f muslims - Lets see what happens then!!!

vstillwell
vstillwell

Who cares? The more we engage in that region, the more grief we get. Forget about it. Tell Exxon to take a hike and invest in more alternative fuels research. Get off oil. 

sha_g
sha_g

Anyone who can for once show something real and tangible to the Muslim world except for lip service can revive ties based on mutual respect and genuine affection. The Muslim world desires better relations with the US, but the US constantly treats Muslims like a step child, taking their toys, their room, their space and giving it to Israel, constantly berating Muslims for every small thing, while ignoring the rampaging Israel child in the same house.

This has become a very dysfunctional family, now words wont help, Mitt would need to take some real action, forcing the Israelis to stop making settlements, forcing them to the peace table, forcing Israel to carve up Palestine, help Kashmiri Muslims gain indpendance, does anyone really think he would do this, sorry Mitt cant improve relations, all he has to offer is what all US presidents have offered Muslims, more lip service.

syzito
syzito

Obama's policy of compromise and apology for defending ourselves after 9/11 sure hasn't worked very well has it.We are hated more than ever by the Muslim community in the Middle East.You are respected from a position of strength not weakness as Obama and his lame brained Sec of State think.Russia fell because they could not keep up with the US military and they destroyed their economy trying. A position of strength not weakness brought Russia to it's knees,not talk and compromise.Obama's policies show how naive and incompetent he really is.

konservative1
konservative1

  The state of the republican  party is so sad.  Stuck in a bubble of delusional self justification.

Lets observe a few simple facts:

Bush released the terrorist that lead the attack.

Our president got osama.

The extreme right wing has pulled the republican party so close to the edge that they can not win.

Sad but true.

MTGRANDMA
MTGRANDMA

There is one thing I can't understand--If the embassy was under attack for FIVE hours, why didn't we send in every available soldier and plane within striking distance?   Was the command to strike just not there?

I remember one story of Romney and that was when a partner's daughter went missing in NYC,  he took  his partners and employees  to New York City to find her.  They did not give up until they found her.   Romney would not have stood by--action would have been taken.  

Terry Clifton
Terry Clifton

I'm confused are we liberators or The Great Satan? Which week is it again?

MTGRANDMA
MTGRANDMA

Mitt Romney said that the campaigns wouldn't go into full gear until after labor day.  I quite imagine both sides are going to be making changes as they go along. 

Mitt Romney's stance on foreign policy should not be set in stone as to how he is implementing it.  Unlike Pres Obama, he does not have intel reports and security briefings, to help him see what is going on, in order to make the right decisions.   Although, it appears in this instance, Pres Obama did not read his, or skipped the briefing.  (This was reported earlier.)

Terry Clifton
Terry Clifton

 What right decisions have Obama made in the Middle East again..Refresh us....

StanleyCupp
StanleyCupp

"Mitt Romney's stance on foreign policy should not be set in stone"

With Mitt Rmoney nothing is set in stone. It's set in Jell-O.

junior36
junior36

Is Jell-O on the Michelle Obama approved food list?

kms123
kms123

It is very unlikely that Romney or anyone else will be able to improve America’s standing in the muslim countries till the Palestinian issue is settled. Muslims will not accept any settlement if the same is  as per Netanyhoo's dictates.

Vincent Lovece
Vincent Lovece

The irony is that the US occupation of Muslim countries has only increase. We still have bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, and a recently-increased presence in Libya... and there is nothing they can do about it. Not a thing. They have never forced us to abandon a base, never pushed our military back, never beat us in a conventional or guerrilla war, they cannot stop us from killing their leaders, they cannot push us out of their cities, they cannot just "wait it out" and hope that moral and/or financing for the occupations collapse, and they cannot stop us from overthrowing pretty much any regime in the Middle East that we want to.

Attacking a few embassies not only does nothing to stop us, it increases our willingness to send in soldiers, drones, planes, ships, marines, etc. Want to stop the US occupation? Stop acting like savages.

prestalex
prestalex

I give President Obama credit for recognizing AND acting upon the necessity to improve not only our image with Muslims, but also attempting to make changes that necessarily must accompany the image upgrade.

The closing of Gitmo was blocked by Republicans. The expansion or "surge" in Afghanistan was the reccomedation from our generals who had applied a surge inside Iraq, with success.

But let's face it - errant bombing missions happen, regardless of which president is in office -- and we've had our share of those mishaps. Killing innocent civilians does not win hearts and minds. And killing Bin Laden - a national goal, cannot be expected to win over Muslims, either.

You just cannot have your cake and eat it too -- and so, as this "war on terror" continues, our actions on the ground will always infuriate our Muslim brothers worldwide.

Obama at least recognizes the need to push Israel towards a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians. But again, when Israel refuses to STOP building more setttlements on lands that they do not own...how can an American president push Israel...without also being labeled as being unfriendly to our Israeli allies?

It's a no-win situation that Romney would only make worse. Need I remind folks of the racist-sounding remarks (intended or not) that sprang from his lips during his recent debacle overseas?

ahandout
ahandout

Quite a laundry list of wrongs done by Obama you have: killing civilians, bombing, assassination, killing al Qaeda, etc.  But what really pisses you off is one sentence. 

Terry Clifton
Terry Clifton

 Apologies accepted..

prestalex
prestalex

Funny, you must be one of those Republicans that just cannot seem to understand how to read English.

junior36
junior36

Was that remark something about "putting you back in chains?" Opps, wrong guy.

junior36
junior36

That's what I like about Obama ... he is never responsible.

Barry Obozo
Barry Obozo

You can bet Romney will not curtsy before those who behead Christians like Obama does.

StanleyCupp
StanleyCupp

You're correct, he'll send some more of our sons and daughters to die.

Not his sons. Ours.

ahandout
ahandout

 You have kids in the military, Stanley?  Or, are you flashing back to the 60s?

StanleyCupp
StanleyCupp

I may have when they are of age. I was born in the 60's, why would I have flashbacks to my childhood?

junior36
junior36

But I bet he won't arm the enemy the way Prince Obama did on the Mexican border. Oh yea, BO and Holder aren't responsible.

StanleyCupp
StanleyCupp

You mean like Reagan and Osama's gang?