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As Russia claims Crimea for its own, it's no surprise that members of the Republican Party are piling on President Obama for "losing" Crimea in a Cold War-esque face-off with Vladimir Putin. The most prominent attack this week came from Mitt Romney in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, which one would assume would borrow from Romney's 2012 campaign in claiming that Obama's wimpy apologizing for America had allowed the thuggish likes of Putin to play Nelson to Obama's Milhouse.
But Romney tries a far more modest tack instead, blaming Obama for failing to act at the "propitious point" that would have magically paved the way for American triumphs in a series of foreign policy events ranging from the protests in Tahrir Square to the protests in Kiev's Maidan. Obama has too often been caught in an "analysis paralysis," Romney suggests, while Romney's ideal president — himself perhaps? — would have been able to "anticipate events, prepare for them, and act in time to shape them."
This is, of course, a hindsight-is-20/20 argument of the highest order, and virtually useless in prescribing a better foreign policy other than blandly requiring that America's leaders be decisive. However, it is a useful insight into a GOP that is struggling to find a unified message on foreign policy. Romney has clearly adopted a less belligerent line than, say, John McCain, a recognition that voters have no interest in an interventionist foreign policy of the Bush variety. Meanwhile, Romney's argument is to the right of Rand Paul, who has come to represent the budding isolationist wing of the party and is struggling mightily to remain relevant (and coherent) amid the drama in Ukraine.
But in seeking middle ground, Romney ends up in a weird no man's land in which he fails to offer any real alternative to Obama's policies. "Timing is of the essence," Romney concludes — which doesn't have quite the stentorian ring of "peace through strength."