Foreign policy is not at the center of the U.S. presidential campaign, which will continue for four more weeks before Americans go to the polls. American citizens are mostly worried about their pockets, their jobs and their health insurance. World affairs are important to them, but primarily because of their effect on the economy, and it's looking like the election will be decided on domestic issues.
Republican candidate Mitt Romney laid out his foreign policy platform this week at the Virginia Military Institute, a military academy whose most prominent graduate, whom Romney praised, is the late Gen. George Marshall, U.S. Army chief of staff during World War II and the U.S. secretary of state at the beginning of the Cold War. (Marshall also opposed the decision of then-U.S. President Harry Truman to recognize Israel.)
Romney's central message was that if only he were granted the power, in the presidential election, he would restore America's past glory, replace gentleness with toughness, and instill a renewed fear of America into wayward regimes and organizations.
In the Israeli context, Romney would stick with Israel's prime minister and they would become flesh of one flesh. He won't allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
These are routine and even empty statements which can be tested only in their execution. Experience shows that those who make such statements change their tune after being sworn into office, whether because they become bound by the constraints of reality or because they only made the comments in the first place as a way of wooing voters.
Even U.S. President Barack Obama deluded himself four years ago into thinking that he could turn around the policies and image of the United States after eight years under the Bush administration. He did not end up changing much, just as, in the realms of security and foreign policy, George W. Bush didn't deviate a lot from the path set by Bill Clinton, who in turn followed in the footsteps of Bush's father. And the list goes on.
The Republicans, under whose leadership the U.S. Army invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, are no more eager than the Democrats to take part in another war in the Middle East. As for the Palestinians, Romney too has promised them support for an independent country alongside Israel.
The real distinctions between the two presidential candidates are faint; the important question is how quickly the next presidential administration can prepare for action, and with how much resolve. On this level, Obama has an advantage, since he by now has presidential experience. Israelis, and especially their prime minister, must stay on the sidelines of this game. We can follow the action and cheer on one side over the other, but we must not intervene.
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