The Washington Post

Is 2012 a war election?

One underappreciated difference between what would likely happen if Barack Obama is re-elected and what would happen if Mitt Romney wins is perhaps the most basic question of all: Will we get war, or peace?

Paul Ryan’s foreign policy guru Elliott Abrams took to the Weekly Standard today to suggest it’s time for Congress to authorize the use of force in Iran. Abrams says that the president could use that authorization to get Iran to surrender, but we all know how this works, or at least would work if the folks who made the same case in 2002 get their way. Once they have authorization to act, the next step is to declare any possible deal not good enough.

It’s not certain that this would happen if Romney is elected. But Romney’s foreign policy advisors don’t differ markedly from George W. Bush’s foreign policy advisors, and it’s not a group that collectively believes that the Iraq War demonstrated the folly of pre-emptive invasions to stop nuclear weapons programs in that part of the world. Would Romney listen to their push for war? Given the ”just trust me” campaign Romney is running, it’s hard to say based on what he has told us so far. But it’s fair to say that the entire thrust of the party is towards intervention in Iran, and Romney himself has consistently argued that Obama’s sanctions policy is much too little.

What if Obama wins? The Drone President has hardly been a pacifist in office; he intervened in Libya, surged in Afghanistan, and of course authorized the strike that killed bin Laden. He’s also increased pressure against Iran. But it’s hard to hear much in the way of preparations for war there in what Obama has been saying.

There’s no way to firmly predict that there will be war if Romney wins, or peace if Obama stays in office. But given the campaign rhetoric from both sides we’ve heard so far, and given what the two parties’ foreign policy elites are telling us, it’s not unreasonable to say that the odds of war are dramatically higher should the GOP recapture the White House.


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