Mitt Romney's Critique of Obama's (and Clinton's) Foreign Policy Focuses on the 'What Ifs'

Mitt Romney wrote an opinion piece that hammers Obama and Clinton for not shifting the direction of international crises. People missing the chance to change directions weighs heavily on Romney, it seems.

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Two-time (-and-counting?) Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrote an opinion piece for Tuesday's Wall Street Journal that hammers President Obama (and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) for not taking advantage of opportunities to shift the direction of our current international crises. People missing the chance to change directions weighs heavily on Romney, it seems.

Romney uses the situation in Crimea as an opportunity to criticize Obama's foreign policy track record. "Over these past five years," he writes, "there was a point when America had good choices and good options" on issues like Crimea and Syria and Egypt. But we missed or flubbed them, leaving America's hands "tied" and leaving America to "wring our hands" — a sure recipe for rope burn when combined together. "[W]e failed to act at the propitious point; that moment having passed, we were left without acceptable options," Romney laments.

There's no doubt that hindsight offers good opportunities to identify points at which good options and bad options existed. In 2011, Romney writes, "the time was ripe for us to bring together moderate leaders" in Syria "who would have been easy enough for us to identify ... and to see that the rebels were well armed." That's 2014 Romney speaking. On the 2011 campaign trail, Romney called for "using the bullhorn of the presidency" to speak out "while voices of freedom and dissent are under attack." He also suggested that "regime change is what's going to be necessary in that setting," with "covert and overt activities to encourage voices of dissent." Of course Romney lacked the advantage of hindsight that he currently enjoys.

As soon as you see Romney's byline on an article challenging the president, you have to wonder: Is a third presidential campaign in the works? Last weekend, Romney played host to a number of his 2012 advisors at a retreat in Park City, Utah — a retreat that was by all accounts a group of friends reuniting for a pleasant outing. But Romney's pointed inclusion of Hillary Clinton in the Journal piece is hard to ignore.

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton traveled the world in pursuit of their promise to reset relations and to build friendships across the globe. Their failure has been painfully evident: It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office, and now Russia is in Ukraine.

That could be Romney the Republican team player, winging the current 2016 Democratic front-runner while he has his shotgun out. After all, that's the paragraph after Romney touts his "career in business and politics" which "exposed me to scores of people in leadership positions," most of whom lacked the ability to have foresight on important matters. Does Romney have such foresight? He demurs.

Although, of course, it's hard not to recall Romney's most famous opinion piece, written for The New York Times in 2008. "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," it was called, and used Romney's background in Detroit to argue that a bailout of the auto industry would be a failure. It wasn't. But it's easier to see why it wasn't in hindsight.

It's a column of what-ifs. And if Romney decides to run in 2016, that's a theme that he will likely revisit.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.