Phares: Mitt Romney's Cutting Edge Middle East Strategy
Dr. Walid Phares is a noted author and Middle East analyst who was appointed as one of foreign policy and national security advisors to former Massachusetts Governor and GOP Presidential hopeful. In this Op ED Dr. Phares raises the challenges that the US faces in the region and Governor Romney's positions and suggested strategies for dealing with significant trends.
Mitt Romney’s Cutting-Edge Middle East Strategy
by Walid Phares
As the US electoral process grinds on and Republican primary debates fold into state primaries and caucuses, candidates’ views on national security and foreign policy are being carefully scrutinized by voters who consider them crucial components of the total policy package a candidate will carry into the Oval Office. Citizens’ attention is understandably riveted to candidates’ proposals for solving our national economic crisis. And, while here is little doubt that the condition of our economy will weigh heavily in the final outcome of the 2012 vote, US national security will undoubtedly play a huge role in the evolution of our national economy for the foreseeable future.
After 9/11and throughout the first post-9/11 decade we have known that a meltdown in the Middle East would destabilize economic partnerships and jeopardize the flow of oil and energy to the West. We’ve also known that an increase of jihadi radicalism in the region will boost the chances of war and human rights abuses and lead to more terrorist attacks against the US Homeland. The security of the United States and other democratic societies will be at risk if the Middle East is abandoned to radicals and radical regimes.
The foreign policy and national security strategy of only one of the four remaining Republican candidates is adequate against this tenuous scenario. Ron Paul’s agenda for the Middle East will guarantee a nuclear Iran, turn North Africa over to the Islamists, and ignore the next wave of jihadists who have trained their sites on the US Homeland. Congressman Paul may be a staunch advocate for citizens’ Constitutional rights, but in my modest view, his vision for US Foreign Policy may force Americans into a national security predicament as bad as or worse than that of a second Obama administration.
I respect and admire all three leading candidates’ and their positions on the Middle East and US national security. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I have worked with all three at different times and find their strategic understanding of the threat to be as grave as my own, though differently expressed. Speaker Gingrich and Senator Santorum have long-warned about the Iranian threat in both in the surrounding region and globally. Their characterization of the jihadi threat as existential hits the bull’s-eye. From my own field of research and publishing, I have not authored or opined on domestic social and economic issues, so I praise all three candidates, Gingrich, Santorum and Romney, for seeing and warning about the threat.
As Senior Advisor to Governor Mitt Romney on matters of National Security and Foreign Policy, and one of three co-chairs on the Middle East and North Africa, I would like to share with readers why I believe Governor Romney’s platform on the region is more advanced than the other candidates’ platforms and the best alternative to the Obama Administration’s agenda on the Middle East. Governor Romney’s edge over the other candidates is his perception of the threat and understanding of the enemy’s tactics. His strategy for victory is precise and reasoned. For more than two decades, I have focused intensely on the strategies of America’s enemies, not just their ideology. The most-read book of three I wrote on jihadism and published after 9/11 is Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America. The book enabled lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic and many in the US defense and national security communities to understand the fundamentals of the conflict. The US is confronting an ideologically-driven force with a global strategy. The latter area is where I see Governor Romney’s strategic edge. Knowledge of where the threat is coming from is crucial. Understanding its ideological roots is a must. But understanding our enemies’ strategy and devising an appropriate counter-strategy that is part of a broader US strategy that advances freedom and democracy, saves the national economy, and stabilizes the world economy, in my view are what make the Governor’s agenda cutting-edge.
The Romney strategy acknowledges and praises US successes in taking down the al Qaeda terrorist commanders Bin Laden, al Awlaki and al Zarqawi as well as the capturing other senior leaders and hundreds of al Qaeda terrorists over the past ten years. But the strategy extends beyond trench warfare with the movement. America’s strategy must go beyond beheading a terrorist network which subscribes to an ideology that can grow new heads faster than the US can take them out. Mitt Romney’s al Qaeda strategy considers where the organization will be in five years, not just where it was five years ago.
On all battlefields where the Jihadists operate, the Romney strategy will be based on day to day achievements on the ground, and a solid understanding of the enemy’s next targets. We will anticipate and intercept their mutations before they begin, not after. In Yemen, despite al Awlaki’s elimination, al Qaeda is seizing villages. Al Shabab is wreaking havoc in Somalia; in major oil-producing Nigeria, Boku Haram is expanding; in Iraq, Salafi jihadists have returned to detonate car bombs; in Libya, al Qaeda flags are flying in Tripoli. The real fight against al Qaeda is in front of us, not behind. A super-global strategy must be applied, not the current retreat and declare success strategy.
On Iran, the current administration claims to have assembled all tools needed to keep the growing threat in check, but continues to try and reason with the regime. All three Republican candidates know that the Iranian regime must be considered as a threat to regional US and international security interests. All three want the regime to end as an ultimate solution to the menace. Mitt Romney is interested in how, with whom and when this can be accomplished. In his definitive Wall Street Journal article, the Governor underlined two pillars of his strategy. One certifies the regime is driving the Iranian nuclear threat. He wants the Iranian to disappear like Qaddafi’s. In addition to US efforts to contain the Iranian military and terror networks, the Governor sees the Iranian people, the Green Revolution, the regime’s primary opposition, as the real US partner in removing the regime.
On these three grounds the Romney agenda for the Middle East provides a strategically-advanced vision—counter radical jihadi ideology, partner with the Iranian people against the Iranian regime, and equip US defense with a vision that intercepts the threat rather than react to it.
Professor Walid Phares is a Senior Foreign Policy and National Security Advisor to Governor Mitt Romney, author of The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East and the founder of the Florida Society for Middle East Studies. He received his PhD in international studies from the University of Miami, and was a professor at Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University between 1993 and 2006.
How will he respond to an attack on the United States by an enemy using a nuclear bomb?
29 Jan 2012 Hugh Fitzgerald
Islam itself - the Camp of Islam - must wherever possible be divided and demoralized. This requires identifying fissures -- ethnic, sectarian, and economic -- both within Islam-dominated countries and among Islam-dominated countries. Sunni refusal to accept Shi'ashould not be deplored but encouraged, and especially in Iraq, the refusal of the Sunni Arabs to acquiesce in their new, inferior position, should not be looked at askance. No position need be taken by the West, and by other Infidels (who should be encouraged, everywhere, to make common cause with other Infidels against the Camp of Islam) on the sectarian battle within Islam.
As to ethnic conflict, wherever possible those Muslims who possess another identity that works against Islam, rather than reinforces it -- and this would apply to Persians, to Kurds, to Berbers, and to Muslims in Indonesia and Malaysia as well -- ought to be encouraged to recognize all the ways that Islam has, is, and always will be a vehicle for Arab linguistic, cultural, and other more obvious forms -- economic and political -- imperialsim. The persecution and sometimes mass-murder, by Arabs (with the tacit approval, or at best indifference, of other Arabs), of Kurds in Iraq, Berbers in North Africa, and black Africans in the Sudan, are the most obvious examples. Those who have a non-Arab identity to appeal to, and have felt oppressed, in one way or another, by Muslim Arabs, may have a built-in purchase against complete Islamization, for an appeal to a pre-Islamic or non-Islamic identity exists.
It exists, most obviously, for Persians, who possess a long pre-Islamic civilization with physical evidence of its existence still remaining, and in addition, a history of Persian resistance to the arabization that normally accompanied islamization. In an Iran that has thrown off the current tyranny, and whose most advanced citizens have had a chance to see Islam at work, and to meditate upon its nature, and what it does to its most sincere and fanatical adherents, it is possible that Islam will be constrained, not by a far-seeing single-minded lonely Ataturk, but by a large host, consisting of those many millions of Iranians whose lives have been blighted by, the Islamic Republic and the ideology of Islam for which it stands.
These are some of the things that the Republican candidate, whoever it turns out to be, has to start discussing, and by forcing this discussion into the open, embarrass or humiliate the Democrats who, so far, have been unwilling to recognize Islam as the permanent threat it is, and must be, for all non-Muslims.
This south-of-the-Rio-Grande (though in truth strictly Blue Ridge, in one of its many chameleontic disguises) version of "All Hat And No Cattle should, I suspect, be rendered as "Todas patatas, ninguna carne."
29 Jan 2012 Gomez y los hijos de virginia tighe
So many personalities, so few cyber addresses.
Ninguna carne it is! Didn't use that phrase as it was a term of endearment my third wife repeated during our most intimate moments (ellos dos?).
Transplanted Floridian in the Clinch Mountain Ridge just west of the Blue Ridge.
"T.p., n.c." email was pertaining to Walid Phares article and not to your comments beneath it. Nothing cutting edge in it.
29 Jan 2012 Hugh Fitzgerald
"Chameleontic" it is, for those of us still sailing with polytropic Ulysses in the offing off of Ithaka. Hyper-pedantic, in its etymological nod, but at least I didn't go all the way -- it's a first date, after all -- and write, as I well might have, "cameleontic," now did I? Someone's got to be hyper-pedantic these days. Why not me?
That last line I have borrowed, on more than one occasion, from Prof. Hironaka, still alive in Tokyo, I've heard tell, who when asked why he named a theorem "Issa's Theorem" instead of naming it after himself, replied: "Literary author use pseudonym. Why not me?'
30 Jan 2012 MikeWood
Good as far as it goes, but it does seem to me a much broader strategy with a much more aggressive attitude is required. Like Hugh says, exploit every fissure in the wretched camp of Islam that we can. As long as Islam exists, there will be no peace and we need to plan and work assiduously over the very long term towards the end of achieving its destruction, as we did with Nazism which now lies defeated and discredited (except in the ummah of course). Islam must suffer a similar fate.
Further, there is no mention of the stealth Jihad, something I have heard Gingrich talk about. He really does have his eyes wide open on these issues. A strategy for American and western security must be aware that a sizeable fifth column is now operating with the complete collusion of large sections of the liberal/left and will be aiming to turn the population at large against any meaningful engagement to counter the multi-layered threat that Islam in all its forms presents.
It's certainly good to see a man like Walid Phares working with a presidential hopeful.