ABC News’ Teddy Davis and Matt Stuart Reports: Mitt Romney promises to combat Hezbollah, the militant Islamic group which warred with Israel last summer, if elected president. But he also thinks Hezbollah’s work establishing health clinics and schools in southern Lebanon hold important lessons for the United States.
"Did you notice in Lebanon what Hezbollah did?" Romney asked Friday during a town-hall meeting in Iowa. "Lebanon became a democracy some time ago. And while their government was getting underway, Hezbollah went into southern Lebanon and provided health clinics to some of the people there and schools, and they built their support by having done so. That kind of diplomacy is something that would help America become stronger around the world and help people understand that our interest is an interest toward modernity and goodness and freedom for all people of the world."
Romney’s effort to learn from Hezbollah’s work in establishing health care and schools is part of a broader effort on his part to make nurturing the "foundations of liberty" a priority in U.S. foreign policy.
In order to defeat what he calls the "scourge of global Jihad," Romney supports expanding the size of the military. But he also favors strengthening the "democratic underpinnings of a country." To achieve this, Romney has called for jointly coordinating U.S. military power with what he calls the "civilian instruments of democracy."
For each region of the world, Romney would give one civilian in the U.S. government — whom he would call a "Deputy" — integrated control over American resources in the areas of education, health, banking, energy, commerce, law enforcement, and diplomacy.
"They will be heavy hitters, with recognized reputations around the world," said Romney while outlining his foreign-policy vision at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in Houston on April 10. "They must be given objectives, budgets, and responsible oversight."
Romney spokesman Kevin Madden told ABC News that the former Massachusetts governor views Hezbollah as a "bloodthirsty" terrorist organization which has "smothered" the progress of the people and nations where it has built its network, "Lebanon serving as an example."
"These terror organizations cannot and should not be allowed to gain an advantage with the citizenry in Muslim nations just because they mask their terror agenda with an offering of some vital services," Madden continued. "By working with moderate Muslims to break down and defeat terror organizations like Hezbollah militarily, we can then turn to a new ‘Marshall Plan’ approach that strengthens the foundations of freedom and prosperity in burgeoning Middle East democracies."