Fareed Zakaria read his recent article at Time Magazine during the opening of his show on CNN this Sunday and while I take issue with his idea of who the "experts" that Romney should be enlisting on foreign policy are, he's exactly right that Romney is doubling down on the very policies that have made President Obama unpopular -- our lopsided support for Israel and the use of drones to go after so-called terrorists.
Mitt Romney picked a bad day to launch a blistering attack on Barack Obama's foreign policy. As Romney was speaking to the annual gathering of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, charging Obama with weakness, betrayal and mendacity, NBC News and the Wall Street Journal released a new poll. It turns out that on "handling of foreign policy," Americans prefer Obama to Romney by 15 points.
Romney's principal charge against Obama is that he has angered America's allies and emboldened its enemies. Again, it turns out that some recently released data contradict the claim. The Pew Foundation released one of its global surveys in June, soliciting opinions from several countries around the world. When asked if they have "some" or a "great deal of" trust in President Obama, the numbers are overwhelmingly positive. In Britain, for example, which is Romney's first stop on his foreign tour, 80% of people trust Obama, compared with 16% who trusted George W. Bush. All countries surveyed have much higher approval ratings of America in 2012 than they did in 2008, when Bush was President. (It's fair to note that the numbers have come down from their 2009 highs, just after Obama's Inauguration, when expectations were soaring.) [...]
There are parts of the world where approval rates for Obama have dropped significantly and where America is viewed with suspicion. They include Russia, China and the countries of the Arab world. This would suggest that Obama has not given these countries what they want, thus earning their disfavor. That is precisely what Romney seems to want in his speech--approval from allies and disapproval from adversaries.
And consider the reasons Obama's ratings are low in the Arab world. The two strongest justifications given by people in every Arab country that was surveyed are, first, that he has not been fair in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and second, that he has used drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan to go after terrorists. In other words, the reason Obama has lost some of his global popularity is that he is perceived as too pro-Israeli and too hawkish. [...]
Romney has tried to dredge up the standard-issue Cold War Republican attack on Democrats: the world is dangerous, our enemies are growing strong, and Obama is weak. The problem is, most Americans recognize that none of this is true. The world is actually quite peaceful right now; our adversaries--like Iran--are weak and isolated. China is growing strong but has not used its power to contest America in national-security terms. The one enemy Americans recognize and worry about remains al-Qaeda and its affiliated Islamic terrorist groups, and Obama has been relentless in attacking them. [...]
Romney faces a tough problem. President Obama is the first Democrat in nearly 50 years to enter an election with a dramatic advantage in foreign policy. (The last time was Lyndon Johnson vs. Barry Goldwater in 1964.) Unless Romney can craft a smart, strategic alternative, that gap will only get wider.