Commentary: Romney's competing teams

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney shakes hands of supporters during a campaign stop at Production Products in St. Louis on June 7, 2012. UPI/Bill Greenblatt
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney shakes hands of supporters during a campaign stop at Production Products in St. Louis on June 7, 2012. UPI/Bill Greenblatt | License Photo

WASHINGTON, June 21 (UPI) -- Ever since Mitt Romney announced his team of 22 special advisers on foreign policy and national security issues and 13 separate regional and issue-oriented working groups, three distinct factions have emerged, competing for the candidate's attention and approval.

The first group comes under the rubric of "Trade and Competitiveness." Its leader is Havana-born Carlos Gutierrez, 59, former Commerce secretary (2005-09), vice chairman of Citigroup's Institutional Clients Group, former chairman and chief executive officer of Kellogg. Co-chair: Grant Aldonas, former undersecretary for International Trade at the Commerce Department and member of the board of the Overseas Private Investment Corp. (2001-05).


Gutierrez and Aldonas see more and better free trade agreements with low tariffs as the key to peace and prosperity. They don't believe in covert operations and are described by friends as country club Republicans.


The second faction is known as the neo-conservatives who believe that the national security interests of the United States and Israel are almost always identical. Long-time neocon stalwarts have been pushed to the side in favor of Eric S. Edelman, 61, a career foreign service officer who was principal deputy assistant to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney for National Security (2001-03); former undersecretary of Defense for Policy (2005-09); former ambassador to Finland and Turkey; recipient of highest awards from both the State and Defense departments; now visiting scholar at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

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In July 2007, Edelman made the news for criticizing U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who was a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and had requested an outline of plans for the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq.

Edelman's written response to Clinton said, "Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia."

Today, after spending more than $1 trillion on the Iraq war, launched two years after the post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan, visiting Iraqi officials concede, albeit off the record, that Iran wields more influence in Iraq than the United States.


Edelman heads the team that is being planned for a Romney Defense Department and the vice president's office. He has three co-chairs.

For Asia, Aaron Friedberg, former deputy assistant for National Security and director of Policy Planning for Cheney (2003-05). Currently, Friedberg is professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton.

For the Department of Defense, as Edelman's consigliere for the neo-con team, is James Shinn, former assistant Defense secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs (2007-08). In his brief tenure, he reported to the undersecretary of Defense for Policy and the Defense Secretary on national security matters in the Asian and Pacific region, and was responsible for developing regional security and defense strategy. He also represented the Defense secretary in interagency policy deliberations and international negotiations related to Asia and the Pacific.

Edelman's second deputy in this shadow team is Mary Beth Long, described by friends as "a superhawk" on Israel. As an undergraduate, she studied in Taiwan at the National University and at Fu Jen Catholic University. She was part of the CIA's Directorate of Operations from 1986-99 where she worked on narcotics, weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. In May 2004, Long resurfaced as deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics.


After George H.W. Bush lost the White House, Long became co-chairwoman and senior vice president at Neural lQ Government Services, a company that deals with Internet security. She now has her own company, Metis Solutions, self-described as "Merchandise Brokers."

Edelman's third deputy is Daniel Samuel Senor, former spokesman for Paul Bremer, the governor of Iraq for a year after the United States routed the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003. A graduate of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Senor also has an MBA from Harvard.

Co-author of the book "Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle," Senor's op-eds appear in The Wall Street Journal and he is a frequent guest on Fox News. He is also a partner at Rosemont Capital and director and co-founder with William Kristol and Robert Kagan of the new think tank Foreign Policy Institute.

The new neocons consider the old neocons radioactive. But their views on the Middle East aren't significantly different.

Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser and Michael Ledeen are the old guard. They are still in the background but the "young Turks" see themselves free from "group think." Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor and an iconic neocon, has made a successful transition into the new guard.


And the common battle ground is an ideological war against political Islamism, which excludes military deployments and focuses instead on tomorrow's wars -- e.g., robotic and cyber warfare.

The third group of Romney advisers see themselves as independent thinkers, free of ideological baggage, ready to rely on science and technology to reverse America's globally perceived decline and restore it to new commanding heights. Some of them are among the 22 special advisers announced by the candidate last October.

Arguably the most interesting figure among the veterans is a one-man intelligence agency who scours the globe for the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment. Michael Pillsbury knows topsiders from Beijing to Brussels and from London to Lahore and carries their no-holds-barred thoughts back to secretary of Defense at the Pentagon. He is a nonpareil expert on the strategic thinking of China's leaders.

Other notables valued by the candidate: Kerry Healey, former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts (2003-07); Michael Hayden, principal of Chertoff Group and ex-CIA director; Cofer Black, a key Bush counter-terrorism chief; Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs (2001-09); John Lehman, National Security Advisory Counsel for the Center for Security Policy and a former secretary of the Navy; onetime neocon Dov Zakheim, former undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller 2001-04), whose most recent book -- "A Vulcan's Tale: How the Bush Administration Mismanaged the Reconstruction of Afghanistan" -- redeemed his old neocon image; John Danilovich, CEO of Millennium Challenge Corp. (2005-09).


In the event of a Romney White House, these are all upwardly mobile names.

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