That view comes directly from Obama’s playbook. After his early infatuation with the idea of “engaging” Iran, entertaining the illusion that he could succeed where other presidents had failed, Obama has become a realist. By now, he has recognized that the ruling mullahs are bent on acquiring nuclear weapons and have no interest in accommodation with the United States. Romney is without illusions about Iran, but he, too, would not take up the sword against the theocracy. The American people show no taste for a new war in the Persian Gulf.
Under Romney, would there be a difference on the “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians? The tone might improve, as the bonds between Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are strong; in contrast, there is an obvious estrangement between Obama and the Israeli leader. But that conflict will not yield to an American president’s power. From Harry Truman till the present, that primordial struggle has frustrated U.S. leaders. No matter how close the U.S.-Israeli relationship is, the United States cannot dictate the terms of an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. Any grand historical accommodation must be the work of the protagonists themselves.
The late Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington once sketched three visions of the United States’ place in the world: nationalist, cosmopolitan and imperial. In the nationalist view, America defends her interests in the world and marks ideological borders and differences with other nations. In the cosmopolitan view, the foreign world and globalization reshape America, erasing the differences that separate it from other countries. In the imperial vision, America remakes the world by remaking foreign lands.
An imperial push can’t be sustained; the United States lacks the resources and the drive for such grand ambitions. So we are down to a more realistic distinction. Obama embodies the cosmopolitan aspiration, and Romney the nationalist idea. We have already seen Obama’s worldview at work; it probably wouldn’t change in a second term. Romney’s stewardship would dawn without trumpets and drums. It would have the sobriety of Gerald Ford’s and George H.W. Bush’s leadership. But there would be an ideological edge, illustrated in Romney’s VFW address: “Like a watchman in the night, we must remain at our post — and keep guard of the freedom that defines and ennobles us and our friends.”
This is not only good prose. Compared with Obama’s ideas, it is
a different view of America.
Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is the author of “The Syrian Rebellion.”
Read more from Outlook:
Romney’s tax returns, Obama’s birth certificate and the end of trust
Is Romney’s Mormonism fair game?
Romney can win with Santorum’s playbook
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