- The Washington Times - Monday, November 28, 2016


President-elect Donald Trump will meet once again Tuesday morning with Mitt Romney, presumably to discuss the possibility of Mr. Romney heading the State Department.

Let’s put aside the fact Mr. Romney led an ugly, personal war against Mr. Trump during the general election, calling him a “con man” and “fraud” whose “promises are worthless.”

Let’s assume Mr. Trump is looking to unite the GOP, and these talks are his way of extending an olive branch. Let’s also assume Mr. Trump is pragmatic in his Cabinet positions — that he wants a successful administration, packed with the best people possible — even if some of those nominees are adversarial.

What I can’t understand is why Mr. Trump would want a secretary of state with an interventionist worldview — something that Mr. Trump campaigned hard against.

If Mr. Romney gets the position, I, as a Trump voter, would like to hear how they resolved the following issues:

1. Russia: Friend or foe?

Mr. Romney famously called Russia the U.S.’s “No.1 geopolitical foe” in a 2012 presidential debate and has lamented how the communist state has outfoxed President Obama during his term. He blamed Mr. Obama’s “naiveté” on Russian President Vladimir Putin, in not being able to anticipate Russia’s Ukrainian land grab and head it off with the threat of sanctions or other communicated threats.

“We really need to understand that Russia has very different interests from ours,” Mr. Romney told CBS in 2014 after Russia formally annexed Crimea. “This is not fantasyland. This is a reality where they are a geopolitical adversary.”

Mr. Trump has more of a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic and views Russia as a partner in helping to defeat the Islamic State, clearly Mr. Trump’s No.1 foe.

2. What to do with Syrian President Assad?

Mr. Romney has said President Assad must go; however, Mr. Trump has argued that would leave a vacuum in the Middle East that would allow the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, to flourish.

“I’m not saying Assad is a good man, ‘cause he’s not,” Mr. Trump told The New York Times in an interview in March. “But our far greater problem is not Assad, it’s ISIS.”

It was consistent with a reply Mr. Trump gave in a GOP primary debate, when asked if he was OK with Mr. Assad staying in power.

“We have to get rid of ISIS first. After we get rid of ISIS, we’ll start thinking about it. But we can’t be fighting Assad. And when you’re fighting Assad, you are fighting Russia, you’re fighting — you’re fighting a lot of different groups. But we can’t be fighting everybody at one time, Mr. Trump said.

However, Mr. Romney has taken the position that Russia, the Islamic State and Assad are all enemies that need to be fought — if he wants or thinks it’s a good thing to selectively prioritize them, like Mr. Trump has suggested, is unclear.

Last year, when criticizing Mr. Obama’s foreign policy at the Aspen Institute’s Washington Ideas Forum in the nation’s capital, Mr. Romney said, “Ultimately we want to see Assad go.”

He added, however: “At this stage, I believe you do have to concentrate on eliminating ISIS. … We cannot allow ourselves to be diverted from the task at hand which is to defeat ISIS and ultimately to replace Assad.”

And then, he once again said that Russia is a dominant world threat.

“You don’t let the Russians tell us that we can’t fly over Syria,” he said.

So what is it, Mr. Romney? The Islamic State, Russia or Assad? If all three, how do we prioritize them internationally, or can’t we? What is your strategic recommendation and how will it work within Mr. Trump’s framework?

3. North Korea: To be involved, or no?

Mr. Romney has argued that the U.S. needs to maintain close status on North Korea and its nuclear power capabilities, whereas Mr. Trump has indicated he’d like to have lesser a role — leaving more responsibility on its neighbor, China.

In January, Mr. Trump said China should rein in its ally North Korea after Pyongyang said it successfully tested a hydrogen device.

“Nobody is discussing it with China. China has total control. Believe me — they say they don’t — they have total control over North Korea, and China should solve that problem,” Mr. Trump said in a phone interview on “Fox and Friends.”

“And if they don’t solve the problem, we should make trade very difficult for China,” he added.

Mr. Romney has indicated he’d like to act more independently, relying less on other world powers.

“North Korea is in contempt of the world and the United States,” Mr. Romney told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace in an interview in 2009. “On the very day the president gives a speech about nuclear non-proliferation, North Korea carries out a missile test. And then on our Memorial Day, they carried out an underground nuclear explosion. They’re making it very clear they’re thumbing their nose at the world. And with a rogue nation like that you have to be very aggressive in defending ourselves with missile defense.”

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