The U.S. faces a number of critical challenges in the Middle East now that the autocratic pillars of stability have fallen in the face of popular protest. Should the U.S. continue to give aid to Egypt, even though the Muslim Brotherhood's commitment to towing the American line is tenuous? Should the U.S. fund liberal/pro-Western forces in Egypt with the aim of having them take power in a future election (and if so, are these forces representative of the society as a whole)? Or should the U.S. seek a coup that restores Egypt's military to power? Should the U.S. use military force to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons program, or stand in the way of Israel's attempt to do the same?
These are just some of the questions that will bedevil any administration come 2013.
So when Mitt Romney published an op-ed titled "A New Course for the Middle East" it was naturally of interest. Here, as best I can tell, is the governor's answer to the questions outlined above:
In this period of uncertainty, we need to apply a coherent strategy of supporting our partners in the Middle East—that is, both governments and individuals who share our values.
This means restoring our credibility with Iran. When we say an Iranian nuclear-weapons capability—and the regional instability that comes with it—is unacceptable, the ayatollahs must be made to believe us.
It means placing no daylight between the United States and Israel. And it means using the full spectrum of our soft power to encourage liberty and opportunity for those who have for too long known only corruption and oppression. The dignity of work and the ability to steer the course of their lives are the best alternatives to extremism.
This is not a 'coherent strategy' but a series of nostrums. They're fine nostrums, as far it goes, but it doesn't begin to address the actual issues the U.S. faces in the Middle East.
The Romney campaign appears to be gearing up to slam the Obama administration for its failure to reach out across the ocean and "shape events" in the Middle East to Washington's liking. But without any substantive alternative, why should anyone take them seriously? Simply establishing that the Obama administration has made a hash of things in the region shouldn't be enough to persuade people that you would - by default - do a better job.