Okay, hold on.
A group of Arab scholars devised a policy that will prompt the Muslim world to unilaterally reject terrorism? It almost sounds too good to be true! But there's more. It happens to be a simple four-point plan. And Romney sketched it out for America during the debate.
As he put it:
The answer they came up with is this.
One, more economic development. We should key our foreign aid, our direct foreign investment and that of our friends -- we should coordinate it to make sure that we push back and give them more economic development.
Number two, better education.
Number three, gender equality.
Number four, the rule of law. We have to help these nations create civil societies.
Why, it's as simple as making whole societies wealthy, educated, and lawful. How hard could that be? Inspired by the numbered list, I've composed my own to share my reactions in the order that I had them.
- Isn't it strange to attribute this list to a panel of Arab scholars, as if these are the novel suggestions of a brain trust with special regional knowledge? Yes, the Middle East would benefit from a good economy, better education, more equality, and the rule of law. That's a pretty standard theory for how to improve a region, right? How did these scholars become relevant?
- This seems like it's a list of desirable things more than a plausible plan for attaining any of them. Hurray, gender equality! But the tough part is explaining how it might be advanced, not affirming it.
- Is economic development and better education likely to decrease extremism in a country like Saudia Arabia? Does Mitt Romney think these are goals to pursue in all countries or just some?
- If a prudent part of the response to extremism is aid for economic development, education, gender equality, and the rule of law, is that the course a Romney Administration would pursue in Palestine? If not, why not? If so, wouldn't that put dread daylight between the United States and Israel?
- Would a Romney Administration request more for foreign aid to advance these very ambitious goals? Or would it reallocate existing aid? What existing aid projects would be cut to make the math work? How much targeted development aid will it take to make Somalia functional?
- In general, what makes Romney think he could achieve goals as elusive as "gender equality" and "the rule of law" given that neither aid nor military occupations typically succeed at any such thing?
If Romney's answer fits in any coherent way with the rest of his campaign, I am missing it. If it's helpful as policy, I don't understand how. I am not saying it's totally off base. Just that, if I told you that improving our schools is going to take more funding, better teachers, more motivated students, and a school environment free from violence and bullying, I wouldn't expect you to believe that I understand education policy, or have a serious plan to make it better. This was one of Romney's weakest answers. Perhaps it was very different as practiced during debate prep sessions.