On Jan. 25, 2011, the day of the first major protest in Cairo, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confidently described the Mubarak government as “stable” and moving towards reform. Fewer than three weeks later, Mubarak had resigned.
Romney repeated his claim that Obama’s foreign policy was “unraveling,” rattling off countries where instability and violence have followed Arab Spring revolts. The tumult, Romney said, brought “a rising tide of chaos.” Analysts who’ve closely followed the Middle East, however, say that there’s little any U.S. president could’ve done to have contained the spontaneous, region-wide uprisings and avoided the threats to U.S. interests in the region, namely the replacing of U.S.-friendly authoritarians with a new crop of Islamist politicians from the Muslim Brotherhood and other more conservative groups.
Gov. Romney repeated that he’d boost trade with Latin America and suggested the region represents a missed opportunity. The United States already has trade agreements with Chile, Peru, and Colombia, the most important Pacific Coast nations in South America. That mostly leaves Brazil, hostile Venezuela and shaky Argentina as significant trade partners. The United States and all the other nations in the hemisphere negotiated a Free Trade Area of the Americas for 10 years, but it died on the vine during the Bush administration, in large measure because Brazil, the region’s dominant economy, didn’t see the pact in its best interests.
Hannah Allam, Roy Gutman, Jonathan S. Landay and Matthew Schofield contributed