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Neocons find a friend in Romney and his foreign policy
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

WASHINGTON • Where have all the Bush-Cheney-era foreign policy hawks, known as the neocons, gone?

Gone to a new think tank in Washington, D.C., or at least a good many of them.

The Foreign Policy Initiative is a neocon nest. It's where Eric Edelman, William Kristol, Robert Kagan, Dan Senor — who are all directors — and others, think, speak, write and hatch new neocons.

If you've puzzled over who advised Mitt Romney, a foreign policy fledgling, to declare Russia America's "No. 1 geopolitical foe" during the campaign and to assure in his speech at the Republican National Convention that, "Under my administration, our friends will see more loyalty, and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone," look no further than FPI.

Just two days before Romney's nomination acceptance speech, FPI held an event on the future of U.S.-Russia relations at the University Club of Tampa. Romney foreign policy adviser John Bolton, who was briefly President George W. Bush's UN ambassador, was to have been the featured speaker, but he was "called over to the convention at the last minute," according to his fill-in, Richard Williamson, also a Romney foreign policy adviser.

Williamson, who served the two George Bushes in a variety of diplomatic positions, told the audience that Romney "understands that with Russia, we have to reset the failed reset policy" of the Obama administration. He echoed the exhortation of Robert Zarate, the FPI policy director and others who want the United States to take a tougher line with Russia, "Drop the Russian reset, Mr. President."

Topping his list of examples of President Obama's no-backbone policy with respect to Russia, Williamson cited that "Russia continues its illegal occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia."

"How can an American administration be in office this long and not be publicly raising the illegal occupation, which came from an illegal invasion?" he asked. "(It's) because of a false fear of engagement."

Apparently, Williamson didn't know that the administration actually has had the two breakaway republics of Georgia on its mind. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meeting with Georgian leaders in the Black Sea port of Batumi in June, said the administration is continuing to push Russia to withdraw its troops from Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"We reject Russia's occupation and militarization of Georgian territory and we call on Russia to fulfill its obligations under the 2008 cease-fire agreement, including withdrawal of its forces to pre-conflict positions and allowing free access for humanitarian assistance," Clinton said.

Calling Obama and former President Jimmy Carter foreign policy "outliers," Williamson said that "engagement results in a safe world." Didn't Carter's engagement with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Camp David conclude in the historic Camp David accords?

Williamson said Romney's foreign policy, outlined in his July 24 speech in Reno, Nev., to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, differs from Obama's in four ways:

— He believes in "American exceptionalism;"

— He believes "America is better off if it leads;"

— He believes in "peace through strength. We've never gotten into a war because we're too strong — and Barack Obama's willingness for sequestration is dangerous to the military;"

— He believes "we should be friends with our friends. Our strength comes from our allies with whom we have shared values and vision."

Unsurprisingly, Romney's foreign policy is a carbon copy of FPI's mission statement. It remains to be seen how voters will react to it during the Oct. 16 townhall-format debate and the one-on-one debate on Oct. 22.

In the meantime, the FPI flock is opinion polling and looking after its third generation of "future leaders" — 13 of them, including a foreign policy and legal analyst for Romney for President, Inc., who join the 40 other young leaders who participated in the two previous years' broods.

The necons are back, rested, ready and seeking to do for Romney what they did for George W. Bush.

Opinion • Bush-era policy hawks have flocked to think tank .
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