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McCain Confirms Romney’s Desire for an Indefinite Iraq and Afghanistan Presence

Last updated on February 9th, 2013 at 02:20 pm

In case you were wondering about Mitt Romney’s plans for Afghanistan, since he has been saying that real Americans don’t care about what he would do there, Romney surrogate John McCain confirmed this morning that Romney would keep troops there indefinitely.

Romney also plans to keep troops in Iraq indefinitely, which is beyond bizarre since Iraq is a sovereign nation and they have not indicated that they would even be open to discussing that idea.


LAUER: But in his speech he said things like we need to be bold and decisive. He said what you said, that we’re leading from behind, but that’s pretty standard material for a speech like this. Did he offer specifics? Did he tell voters why he is going to be a game-changer when it comes to foreign policy?

MCCAIN: I’m confident that he did, because, again, America’s role in the world has been one of retreat and disarray.

LAUER: But can you give me an example?

MCCAIN: Sure, sure, Iraq, Iraq. We should have left a residual force there, and it’s now Al Qaeda is back returning and resurgence is there. In Afghanistan, Mitt Romney would have listened to the advice of our military leaders. Instead, he decided on his own to withdraw early and often, and we are now in a serious situation there.


In his foreign policy speech Monday, Romney attacked President Obama for withdrawing troops from Iraq, saying “America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence. The President tried—and failed—to secure a responsible and gradual drawdown that would have better secured our gains.”

It was, in fact, Former President Bush who signed an agreement with the Iraqi government that we would withdraw our troops by December 31, 2011. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was unwilling to address the agreement when President Obama broached the subject of keeping some of our troops there in order to continue the advise and assist mission, given the power vacuums that predictably presented a vulnerability as we drew down. How would Mitt Romney unilaterally decide to keep troops in Iraq? John McCain knows better, but as is typical with Republicans these days, they will say anything — no matter how false — in oder to get a dig in at this President.

Finally, though, we are filled in on Romney’s plan to have no plan to withdraw from Afghanistan. He said, “But the route to war – and to potential attacks here at home – is a politically timed retreat that abandons the Afghan people to the same extremists who ravaged their country and used it to launch the attacks of 9/11. I will evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the best advice of our military commanders. And I will affirm that my duty is not to my political prospects, but to the security of the nation.” [Romney Foreign Policy Address, Lexington VA, 10/8/12]

If you can get past Romney’s fear-mongering, what he’s actually saying is that he would cede power to the generals. Not only is that is not what a Commander-in-Chief does, but when you consider that the CIC appoints the generals, this really means whatever the Romney foreign policy team wants, they will get.

Our government is set up so that strategic decision-making is done by civilian political leadership precisely to avoid the sort of scenario Romney is proposing. In the U.S., the generals advise and inform, the CIC makes the ultimate decisions because he/she has access to more information, including complicated diplomatic issues, than the generals. Civilian control of the military is seen by many as necessary for a democracy. Now you know why Republicans are in favor of the gun running the country.

Romney must think that the belligerence with which he delivers non-specifics will come across as strong. This is the man who bumbled his way through a the London Olympics, managing to make a mockery of himself while having to crawl back and apologize repeatedly for stupid and insulting things he said the day before. Belligerence does not a foreign policy make, particularly in this new climate, but it does disguise an agenda for endless war as “strength”.

Ben LaBolt, Obama’s National Press Secretary, issued a statement in response to McCain’s comments, “In his seventh ‘major’ foreign policy speech yesterday, Mitt Romney doubled down on the failed policies of the past that weakened America’s standing in the world. And he’s not backing down – this morning, Romney surrogate John McCain, when pressed for any specifics on what Romney would do as president, reaffirmed his commitment to an indefinite troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama ended the war in Iraq. Now he is bringing our troops home from Afghanistan because we’re doing what we went there to do – decimate al-Qaeda and prevent a return to the safe haven it had before 9/11 – and it’s time to do some nation-building here at home. But Romney would have kept tens of thousands of U.S. troops fighting in Iraq, and has no concrete plan to bring our troops home from Afghanistan.”

The troops I speak with who are currently deployed or just returned from Afghanistan don’t want to stay there indefinitely, and this is just one reason why Romney has previously refused to tell us his plans for Afghanistan. American civilians don’t want an indefinite presence in Afghanistan either.

Romney says he will increase defense spending by 2 trillion dollars, but doesn’t tell us how he will pay for it. Actually, the way he words this is that he would tie military spending to 4 percent of GDP, which translates to 2 trillion dollars over ten years. In case you’re thinking that will go to the troops in the field, think again (note: beware of the deliberately confusing conflation of defense spending with military spending).

On Mitt Romney’s foreign policy team is a former Vice Chairman of Blackwater, Cofer Black. I think we all know where a Romney administration would be spending that 2 trillion. The military isn’t asking for this increase, by the way and according to PolitiFact, “military leaders have testified in support of the president’s spending plan.”

Mitt Romney would leave our troops in Afghanistan indefinitely and would apparently override the Iraqi government in order to leave our troops there. Finally, we get some clarity on Romney’s endless war foreign policy. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Romney’s “foreign policy” is much like his “energy policy” that he let the oil companies write. Romney is ceding his foreign policy vision (if he ever had one – he has flip flopped so consistently that the only thing we are sure of is that he has no guiding principle) to the Blackwater Cheney types.

In other words, it’s all about the money. Romney wants to harvest American taxpayers for more Blackwater-esque no-bid contracts in sovereign nations, against the will of their leaders.

Romney’s foreign policy speech has been widely panned as both non-specific and failing to draw contrast between his policies and the President’s. Underneath his raging vagueness, a scary picture of a Romney presidency is emerging. In matters of foreign policy, Romney is Dick Cheney.

Additional Source: Max Farrand, 1911. Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. New Haven, Yale University Press.

Sarah Jones

Listen to Sarah on the PoliticusUSA Pod on The Daily newsletter podcast here. Sarah has been credentialed to cover President Barack Obama, then VP Joe Biden, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and exclusively interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi multiple times and exclusively covered her first home appearance after the first impeachment of then President Donald Trump. Sarah is two-time Telly award winning video producer and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Connect with Sarah on Post,  Mastodon @PoliticusSarah@Journa.Host, & Twitter.

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