Commentary Magazine


Romney’s Consistent Approach to Iran Policy

As Alana notes, Mitt Romney’s Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizes the Obama administration’s Iran policy and advocates for a tougher public posture against the Iranian regime. “I will back up American diplomacy with a very real and very credible military option,” Romney writes.

Because Romney has made a habit of allowing his positions on issues to “evolve” over the years, some see flip-flopping in every statement he makes, parsing the language for any justification to file another “Romney changes his stance on…” article. Over at the Danger Room, Spencer Ackerman and Noah Shachtman have fallen into this trap:

In 2007, he said, “If for some reasons [the Iranians] continue down their course of folly toward nuclear ambition, then I would take military action if that’s available to us.”

Obviously, there’s some wiggle room in that statement. (Who knows what a “course of folly” looks like, or whether or not a military strike is “available?”) Still, it’s a sizable shift from 2007 to 2011. Instead of committing (however loosely) to military action, Romney will now merely threaten Iran.

Is it a “sizable shift”? Let’s look at the rest of that quote, left out of Ackerman and Shachtman’s post:

“That’s an option that’s on the table. And it is not something which we’ll spell out specifically. I really can’t lay out exactly how that would be done, but we have a number of options from blockade to bombardment of some kind. And that’s something we very much have to keep on the table, and we will ready ourselves to be able to take, because, frankly, I think it’s unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons.”

So, he’s gone from military action being “an option that’s on the table” to having a “credible military option.” Ackerman and Shachtman say this “shift” matters because it’s a signal from the Romney camp that they understand they are closer to the presidency than in 2007 and therefore are taking a more sober posture toward such issues. Other evidence of this “dovish” Romney? Ackerman and Shachtman say in 2007 Romney advocated for a new Marshall Plan “to wholly reshape the Middle East,” but he has now scrapped that in favor of “embrac[ing] the Arab Spring revolutionaries.” Something tells me Ackerman and Shachtman are aware that the Arab Spring has already reshaped the Middle East, and it would be strange for Romney not to recognize it.

So why put in all this effort in order to paint Romney as newly dovish? It’s possible Romney is finally being taken seriously by reporters and bloggers who previously expected President Obama would have an easier road to reelection. After last night’s debate, conventional wisdom is that Romney’s path to the nomination just got a bit smoother. The scrutiny will only increase, but his supporters (and those nervous about Iran’s nuclear program) will be heartened to find that he’s been, at least on this issue, consistent.