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Mitt Romney's Dangerous Foreign Policy Team: Nostalgic for Bush, Hellbent on War with Iran

The candidate's foreign policy team features the usual belligerence, mixed with some serious nostalgia for a thoroughly discredited foreign policy framework.

It's hard to watch the Romney campaign with a straight face. Their latest crackup has one Romney adviser, John Lehman,warning of the “Soviet threat," and another, Pierre Prosper, complaining that the administration hasn't done enough to stand with Czechoslovakia. And those comments were hardly the first time we've heard throwbacks to the Cold War in this campaign. But don't laugh too hard—it might distract from the dangerous and discredited worldview Romney's foreign policy team is pushing.

Despite Obama’s expansion of the war in Afghanistan and his ramping up of drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan, Romney claims Obama is a president who does not want “America to be the strongest nation on earth,” as he told an audience at the Citadel military college in South Carolina.

Romney’s persistent knocks on Obama’s foreign policy make clear that, while the economy will be the number-one issue this year, foreign policy will be a close runner-up. Behind Romney’s statements on world affairs is a group of close advisers whose views harken back to the Bush administration’s belligerent neoconservative brand of US foreign policy--not the best idea, considering how discredited it has become.

“The most striking aspect of Romney's approach to foreign policy is its lack of creativity -- its brazen willingness to recycle Bush-era talking points, attitudes, and of course personnel,” said Peter Certo, a researcher at Right Web, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies. “A Romney administration would be a fresh canvas for the neocons to paint on.”

As the general election season heats up, the noise from the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party will only grow louder. So here’s a look at three of the top advisers shaping Romney’s view of the world.

1. Eliot Cohen. Currently a professor at John Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, Cohen was a founder of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) and is now a special adviser for the Romney campaign. The Washington, DC-based PNAC was an influential incubator of neoconservative policy ideas whose members later went on to successfully push for the invasion of Iraq. He was a member of the Defense Policy Board, a Department of Defense advisory committee, while Donald Rumsfeld ran the show, and served as counselor to Condoleezza Rice while she was Secretary of State.

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Cohen penned a Wall Street Journal  op-ed in which he labeled the US “war on terror” as “World War IV,” and advocated for the overthrow of both the Iranian and Iraqi governments. Cohen’s focus on Iran has not relented: in 2009, another op-ed in the Journal again called for the overthrow of the Iranian regime—which could only be accomplished by a full-scale invasion and occupation.

In October 2011, the prominent neoconservative wrote the foreword to a " white paper" laying out Romney’s foreign policy vision. It reads, in the words of  journalist Max Blumenthal, as “a concoction of post-9/11 unilateralism and unvarnished neo-imperialism.”

The paper calls for boosting the military budget, and the assertion of US dominance in Asia against a “rising China.” The document also warns that the Arab Spring might become an “Arab winter” due to Iranian or Islamist influence, and criticizes the Obama administration’s plan on Iraq, which called for 3,000 troops to stay in the country after the expiration of the Status of Forces Agreement. The white paper called for 14,000-18,000 troops to stay on in the country. Today, only 150 American troops remain in Iraq.

On Iran, the country that Cohen and his neoconservative colleagues are currently targeting, the paper states: “U.S. policy toward Iran must begin with an understanding on Iran’s part that a military option to deal with their nuclear program remains on the table.” The paper also slams the “anti-American ‘Bolivarian’ movement across Latin America” and denounces the Obama administration’s alleged support for Manuel Zeyala, the Honduran president deposed in a coup in 2009.

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