October 13th, 2012
07:45 PM ET

A conservative split over the Middle East

By Fareed Zakaria

Mitt Romney’s speech on foreign affairs this week was surprisingly moderate. Rhetorically it was full of sound and furybut, on closer examination, it signified no major change of policy. Romney affirmed the timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan; he did not propose sending troops back into Iraq and did not advocate military strikes on Iran. He pledged to work toward a two-state solution in the Middle East. He even left out the belligerence toward China that had been a staple of his speeches in recent months.

Romney proposed one policy shift, toward Syria. But even there — in a carefully worded, passive construction — he did not announce that as president, he would arm the Syrian opposition, merely that he would “ensure they obtain the arms they need.” The “they” is “those members of the opposition who share our values.” So, Romney’s sole divergence from current policy is that we should try harder to find non-Islamists among the Syrian rebels and encourage Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to give them more arms.

Romney’s moderation is partly a continuation of his pivot to the center. But it also reflects the lack of consensus among conservatives on what to do about the turmoil in the Middle East.

Read the full column at the Washington Post


soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Indra

    Romney : " I will sacrafice our young men and women, for the sake of Israel. Gladly."

    Obama : " Shut up Mutt, go read your golden alien tablets."

    October 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Reply
  2. j. von hettlingen

    Egypt, as the most populous and influential country in the Middle East has long history of indigenous liberal and secular activism. Under the secular regimes many proponents had long practised the "laissez-faire" life-style and minded their own businesses. With the Arab Spring and the demise of these regimes, other forces, like the most notable ones – the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) – have emerged. The MB had gained popularity by performing social services over the past decades – the running of health clinics, schools and providing food for the poor – which helped it become the political force it is today. The secularists and liberals – lacking unity – can't stand as an alternative to the MB and its dominance. If the Islamists want to move their countries forward, they have to find a way to compromise with others, who don't share their ideology.

    October 12, 2012 at 5:48 am | Reply
    • windsorontariowithnooil

      "The secularists and liberals – lacking unity – can't stand as an alternative to the MB and its dominance. If the Islamises want to move their countries forward, they have to find a way to compromise with others, who don't share their ideology."
      @j.von nettling
      when you referred to the need for the MB to compromise with others- who are the others you are referring to? The secularists and liberal Egyptians who voted in the elections? Or perhaps the American Government who did not cast a vote but provides billions in aid money to the Egyptian Military? Aid money that the American government is threatening to withdraw if the MB fails to make decisions that are favourable to the US and her allies. You insult my intelligence and every Egyptian when you referred to their previous government as secular, Your statement "opponents of the previous government were living a "laissez-faire" life-style" proves you have no idea what you're talking about. The former Military Commander and President Hon Embark had his opponents imprisoned or killed and he followed the US instructions on Egyptian Foreign Policy to the letter. That is why Egypt had a revolution and removed him. Now it is the Egyptians on the streets of that country who will decide on who speaks for them. It will be the Egyptian people who will remove the MB if they fail to do so.

      October 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        You got me wrong. Opponents of the previous government had only one adversary, the Mubarak regime. They left the MB and the Islamists in peace.

        October 14, 2012 at 6:32 am |
  3. war is coming

    muslim brotherhood head spiritual leader just calls for jihad to liberate jerusalem and all of "palestine", by force.

    so obama? whatcha gonna do......?????? give a speech?

    October 13, 2012 at 12:19 am | Reply
    • windsorontariowithnooil

      @war is coming
      Jihad can be referred to as an unwillingness to accept or recognize an injustice and to fight back against that injustice. It's not to simply kill out of hatred or just because your aggressor is not a Muslim.
      The reasons he said that is because he believes that Israel is an occupying military power in the West Bank and Jerusalem. And that the Israeli government is a Zionist government that does not recognize the needs of the non-Jews in the region. They also continue to build Jewish only housing on Palestinian land. He also claims, Jerusalem is a shared capital for Arabs and for Jews. Israel as we all know, places a pre-condition to negotiations that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of the Jewish State. He also indicated that the negotiations through the United Nations for a Palestinian Statehood are going no where. I agree with him. I believe Palestine owes Israel nothing. Israel has experienced expansion at the Palestinians expense and they should at least share Jerusalem. American Speeches are another waste of time and an opportunity to ignore the reality that Israel is in breach of the United Nations and International Law: I think Israel is a great nation in this great big world and are accountable like any other country for their actions. Any country that supports Israel's continued occupation through financial means or other wise are complaisant in a crime. Just so you know, liberation will come through force because Israel refuses to recognize their behavior and follow international law.

      October 13, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Reply
  4. Jack assman

    So really is Romney just echoing Obama's policies? I am confused here if they agree on everything so why have elections? let's give Obama a walk, unless it's a tie in the 9th inning and Romney is hoping for a 'hail mary".
    What a joke this man is and his followers are equally naive to follow him, a leopard never changes his spots, sooner or later the real Romney will surface.

    October 13, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Reply
    • Proactive

      Jack Assman, I absolutely agree with your comments.

      October 14, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Reply
  5. JAL

    What is the Psychology of sustained compromise?

    October 13, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Reply
  6. Scott D

    I have no idea how any informed person can give any credence to anything that Fareed Zakaria says. He is an admitted plagiarist, and was "temporarily suspended" last month by CNN for his transgressions (notice the plural use of the word). This fact also calls into question any journalistic integrity that CNN may still claim to have. It is obvious that CNN's and Zakarias' agenda trumps honesty, integrity & the necessary journalistic contributions to the political discourse in a very important election. How sad. For years, CNN represented the best in ethics- now they have become an ignorant, unthinking mouthpiece for the Left Wing. Any self-respecting journalistic outlet would have immediately banished Zakaria to the trash-bin.
    Ted Turner, where are you? I miss your honesty, where no one was allowed to be a "journalistic criminal" or a Sacred Cow.
    Scott

    October 13, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Reply
    • Plagiarism!

      I agree. Fareed is a plagiarist, copying others' work, and he must go if CNN wishes to have any credibility.

      October 14, 2012 at 5:37 am | Reply
  7. Dag1

    Fareed, I'm a bit confused. Are you and your panel of experts(?) asking the US government and thereby the American people, to take responsibilty for making decisons about WHAT changes need to be made in the middel east? Additionally, your questions seem to lead the panelists to make comments about HOW the US should somehow mold arabic cultures into westerner ones. I for one, would really miss some of the really enjoybale aspets of the arabic cultures and would also like to see the American people off the hook for fixing the never ending bottomless pit of middle eastern politics.

    Does a low income, disabeled person who barely has the means to sustain his /her life, have a greater resonsibility to middel eastern "reform" than he/she does to his/her neighbor right here in the US ?

    Another curious question. Why are your panelists more frequently than not, made up of indians and pakistani's making expert comments on american foreign policy? Did you forget that the US is made up of Asians, Africans, South American, Carribians, non-american europeans, global MUSLIMS, global Christians, Budhists, Bahai, Zoroastrians, Jews, Agnostics etc.... its a wonderful rainbow so why is an educated man with a podium forcing yet more narrow views on the viewers? Are none of these other folks educated about foreign policy?

    Don't turn into a clandenstine conservative like your cohort, Anderson Cooper.

    October 14, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Reply
  8. steve

    Fareed makes me laugh ...He takes the position, that the ousting of long time leaders , friendly to U.S interest such as Mubarak would ultimately help America's outlook with their people , even with such a leader as Morsi , who is part of the Radical Muslim Brotherhood. Then the very next segment he talks about Argo the movie , a story of 6 men who successfully avoided capture during the tumultuous time during the Iran hostage episode during the Jimmy carter era.
    Fareed takes parts that he so chooses and makes it fit his narrative, w/o taking a step back and looking at the parallels of what he is saying. Governments that use religion as their focal point , crush the more moderate mindset , by not only saying that their religion trumps all others , but by breeding intolerance of ALL others. This is a far worse government then one that rules with an Iron Fist and is friendly toward the U.S . Is Iran more friendly to the U.S and other world countries today, then during the times of the Shah ? Fareed assessment , is belief that the people of these countries can turn it around, as if they live in Western Society. Its fool's gold. ! If the blame game for these countries wasn't about a perceived corrupt leader , then it would be about oil , if it wasn't about oil it was about Israel , then it would be someone else' s devilish religion. The blame game can go on and on with no end in sight, if the people who preach want to keep corrupting the minds of the naive. Fareed also invites people who agree with his philosophy . Fareed's guest mentions that Morsi started off bad , but quickly took a positive approach(Like jumping in a pool of water and getting a little wet) . He states that Morsi , posted soldiers at the U.S Embassy after they already tore our flag and hung up a radical Flag. He mentions that Morsi went to Iran to talk to them and denounce Asad. He did conveniently forget that Morsi , part of the Radical Muslim Brotherhood preached to thousands that if he would take leadership, Jerusalem will soon be the capital of Egypt. He also forgot that that Morsi was speaking out of 2 sides of his mouth , in Arabic , he was imploring the radicals to keep at it when the American Embassy was attacked and with the other side of his mouth he was telling Americans that he was quelling the people down . The American Embassy told him that they can read Facebook quite well. Would we have to tell England to post extra security in front of the American Embassy on 9/11 ? Should even more security be placed in front of American Embassies in Muslim Countries on 9/11 ? Should we have to request this after the fact ?
    The question that indeed needs to be asked , why is Muslim Society in all these countries, so far behind western society , in terms of modernization, when they have been walking the earth long before most of them ? When this is honestly answered, then a true conversation can be held , on who should be better in filling a void for an ousted Gov't .

    October 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Reply
  9. Proactive

    Just wanted to comment on the female Panellist's viewpoint on how the US to try and shape events in the Arab World which is precisely the role the US has played until recently interfering in other Countries and Regional Affairs and why the US is not seen as a credible mediator in the Middle East Peace process. The Dictators were propped up the US and it is a fallacy thinking that the US can still be the Police Officer of the World and arbitrator. That role should be left to the UN whilst the truly democratic member nations, help to strengthen it. It is delusional for Conservatives to continue to think that they can do the things they did in the past in a changed World. It is called delusion and the lady ought to acknowledge that.

    The best way to deal with the emerging fragile democracies is to use the carrot and stick method where US interests are involved and at risk but not to interfere in the Domestic affairs of other nations. Leadership is not about bullying but about being honest, authentic, sharing knowledge about a vision that is compelling and the right/correct direction that would benefit societies at large.

    October 14, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Reply
  10. Proactive

    Just wanted to comment on the female Panellist's viewpoint on how the US to try and shape events in the Arab World which is precisely the role the US has played until recently interfering in other Countries and Regional Affairs and why the US is not seen as a credible mediator in the Middle East Peace process. The Dictators were propped up by the US and it is a fallacy thinking that the US can still be the Police Officer of the World and arbitrator. That role should be left to the UN whilst the truly democratic member nations, help to strengthen it. It is delusional for Conservatives to continue to think that they can do the things they did in the past in a changed World. It is called delusion and the lady ought to acknowledge that.

    The best way to deal with the emerging fragile democracies is to use the carrot and stick method where US interests are involved and at risk but not to interfere in the Domestic affairs of other nations. Leadership is not about bullying but about being honest, authentic, sharing knowledge about a vision that is compelling and the right/correct direction that would benefit societies at large.

    October 14, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Reply
  11. Proactive

    Apologies for posting twice as I noted typo errors in the first posting which I corrected in the second. Perhaps it would be a good idea to have the "edit" option that would enable changes to be made and or typos corrected after posting.

    October 14, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Reply
  12. Muin

    Americaa's financial house is really not in order.If this was a rational race, americans would have just just pick president based on who can fix this.

    October 15, 2012 at 7:51 am | Reply
  13. Hahahahahahahaha

    Since WHEN has a republican EVER been a conservative!!!!!!!!! Hahahahhahahahaha

    October 15, 2012 at 9:51 am | Reply

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