By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
In an interview this morning with former—and, possibly, future—presidential candidate Mitt Romney, I asked for his thoughts on President Obama's outreach to Muslims abroad, including the speech to the Muslim world that the president plans to make from Cairo on Thursday.
Romney's response illustrates the stark differences between Democrats and Republicans on engagement in the Muslim world and GOP fears about Obama's approach:
It's a good idea to reach out to other nations of the world, to reach out to the Muslim lands, for instance. I think there's a great deal of concern on the part of many, particularly in the Arabic world, about the ambition of Iran to become a nuclear state. I think showing our willingness to work with Arabic nations and other nations to keep Iran from pursuing that course makes a lot of sense. I applaud the willingness of the president to reach out to other nations and to speak with them.
But I draw the line by saying in reaching out to other nations we certainly should not stand up and apologize for America. America has sacrificed too much to restore liberty to people in the world to ever be in a position of constant apology. I think the president was wrong in going on Arabic TV and saying that America has in the past dictated to other nations. I think he was wrong in fact and that it was the wrong thing to say. Ahmadinejad of Iran seized upon that to demand more apologies for America....
I hope as [Obama] goes to Cairo he shows the resolve and strength of America on preserving and defending freedom and does not in any way suggest an apology. This is a time for strength and commitment to common principles, not a time for apologizing for America. We have done too much. Too many lives have been sacrificed on behalf of the freedom of other people in the world for America to engage in an apology tour.
Two huge differences between Romney's and Obama's approach toward the Muslim world.
1. Obama wants to directly respond to Muslim grievances toward the United States over issues like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Romney avoids entertaining such complaints and wants to focus on common enemies like Iran, which is more of a concern to Arab governments than to rank-in-file Muslims.
2. Romney insists that the United States avoid any apologies for actions abroad. Obama, by contrast, freely admits to American missteps when addressing Muslim audiences, as he did in his January interview with Al-Arabiya:
My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect. But if you look at the track record, as you say, America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there's no reason why we can't restore that. And that I think is going to be an important task.
Which approach do you prefer?