The neoconservatives who provided the intellectual foundation for the war in Iraq convened on Monday to make a renewed push for the current administration to pursue greater military engagement in Afghanistan.
Hours after it was reported that military officials are advising President Obama to send up to 40,000 more American troops to the eight-year-long war, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney joined the intellectuals at the Foreign Policy Initiative forum to declare any future policy debate moot.
"Hopefully he has had the time to deal with the issue of Afghanistan," Romney added. "He will make the decision, which is called for by as great a team of military minds that has ever been assembled for a conflict like this... This team is unanimous. They have developed a strategy that is consistent with his principles. How in the world can he at this stage be saying what he is saying?"
Speaking before the FPI -- a group headed by many of the chief intellectual authors of the war in Iraq, including The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, renowned neocon Robert Kagan, and former adviser to the Coalition in Iraq Dan Senor -- Romney's remarks were filled with other carefully-worded criticisms of Obama's foreign policy. The president had shown himself to be "a reluctant and timid defender of freedom," was pursuing a "dramatic" and "revolutionary" departure from previous approaches to global affairs and was alienating our allies in an effort to placate emerging international forces, argued the former Massachusetts governor argued.
"All politicians are in love with love," Romney said of the alleged "neutrality" that Obama had brought to U.S. diplomatic relations. "I think it flows in part from the sense that is growing in a lot of foreign policy circles that America is in decline. And that is inevitable that other great nations will surpass America and therefore the job of the president of the US should be to manage America through decline and make sure that we are in good stead with the Chinese and the Russians and these other contenders."
And yet, for all the foreign policy machismo and rhetorical platitudes offered by Romney, a countervailing truth seemed to temper his and others remarks. On the topic of Afghanistan, Obama and the neocons are far closer to one another than they are apart. The president, to date, has pursued policies that even former rivals like Sen. John McCain, (R-A.Z.) and Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.) have cheered.
At an earlier panel at the FPI forum, the president was urged once more to follow the recommendations that his top military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, laid out in a 66-page assessment of the situation in that country.
"The primary objective [in Afghanistan] is to protect the United States" from another 9/11," said Rep. Mark Kirk, a Republican Senatorial candidate in Illinois. My job, Kirk added, is to "make sure that everyone in [Chicago's] Sears Tower can come home tonight."
But others were more accommodating of the president's desire for deliberation, noting the need to build up public support for the endeavor and the long-term implications of any additional troop commitment.
"The support of the American people is the center of gravity for the next ten years," said Brig. Gen. Mark T. Kimmitt, USA (Ret.). Given the extent of the commitment hoped for, this "is going need some deliberation," Kimmitt said, "we don't want to see a rush to failure."