After Monday’s debate, many took note of the way in which Mitt Romney shifted his foreign policy towards what constitutes the center on Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran. It was as if the previous ten months or so had never happened, with The New York Times editorial page suggesting that Romney now “does not actually have any real ideas on foreign policy beyond what President Obama has already done, or plans to do”. His relative moderation also led some, including The Forward’s Gal Beckerman to ask, “So Romney seems to have ditched the neocons tonight. Where was Dan Senor’s influence?”
Senor’s name has been thrown around a good deal during this campaign. As a senior foreign policy advisor to the Romney/Ryan ticket, it was suggested infamously and rather insidiously by Maureen Dowd that Senor was in fact a “neocon puppet master”, moving the lips of his candidates. Aside from the obvious problem with her imagery, Dowd (and indeed Gal’s) statements are based upon a fundamental misconception: that Senor is a neoconservative at all.
This false impression of Senor derives in the main from two things we know about Senor’s career, such as it is. The first is that he has been a very strong advocate not only for Israel and its absolute right to defend itself but for the military option to prevent Iran from going nuclear. The other and more significant one perhaps (since the former is the consensus view in the United States) is Senor’s association with the liberation of Iraq as spokesman for L. Paul Bremer, who as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in effect ran the country in the year after the liquidation of the Ba’athist regime.
The man once known as the intellectual godfather of the Iraq war opposes a military strike on Iran.
Bernard Lewis, 96, the British-born expert on the Middle East who enjoyed exceptionally close ties to the Bush administration, told the Forward at a gala dinner held in his honor last night that he didn’t support military action against Iran.
“I don’t think it’s the right answer,” he said.
Lewis said that he supported regime change in Iran, but that it should be achieved through U.S. support of an internal Iranian opposition.
“We should do what we can to help the Iranian opposition,” Lewis said. “We could do a lot to help them and we’re not doing a damn thing, as far as I know.”
Lewis, an emeritus professor in Princeton’s Near Eastern Studies program and a highly controversial figure in his field, has been characterized as having provided the intellectual framework for the justification of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.