Howard Eissenstat, assistant professor of Middle East history at St. Lawrence University (Canton, New York), can discuss Mitt Romney’s policy positions outlined this week at a speech at Virginia Military Institute. Among the points he can discuss:
• Romney is wisely ignoring hard-line advisors, notably the notoriously ham-fisted John Bolton and siding with Republican “realist wing.”
• Romney criticizes Obama for the pace of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, but he seems as wary as the President of new foreign adventures.
• U.S. strategy regarding active terror groups is clear-cut and unlikely to change if Romney is elected. He promises a tougher line with Iran and with the new government in Egypt, but his statements seem to hint at a continuation of Obama policies rather than a break with them.
• Romney changed direction in the speech regarding Palestine, saying American should re-commit to a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living in peace with Israel.
• Romney said he would arm the Syrian resistance, which would be a major escalation of U.S. involvement in that civil war. This policy differs from Obama’s and bears serious examination, especially as the war threatens to destabilize Lebanon and spill over into Turkey.
Eissenstat says it would be interesting to know how Romney would differ from Obama on the repression in Bahrain, or America's relationship with Saudi Arabia. Romney did not mention the words "oil" or "resource" once in the speech, and Eissenstat believes that for both candidates to offer meaningful policies in the Middle East, they should begin with clarity on American strategic interests in the region.
Howard Eissenstat is an assistant professor of Middle East history at St. Lawrence University (Canton, New York), has traveled broadly in the region and lived in the Middle East for more than 10 years. Before joining St. Lawrence's faculty in 2009, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University and an assistant professor of Middle East History at Seton Hall University. He earned the Ph.D. in Near Eastern History from UCLA. Eissenstat writes frequently on Middle Eastern affairs and is currently completing a manuscript on Muslim identity and nationalism in Turkey.