Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney delivered a major foreign policy address at the Virginia Military Institute this morning, but failed to clarify his specific policy goals on many major challenges facing the country.
Romney’s speech, ostentatiously titled “The Mantle of Leadership,” argued that the United States needs to “change course in the Middle East” by utilizing the strategy of “peace through strength” instead of following the Obama administration’s strategy of “hope.” While Romney talked a big game, he actually offered very few discernible points of difference with the Obama administration’s foreign policy.
Romney declared that “I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability,” promising to enact new sanctions in order to “make clear to Iran through actions—not just words—that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.”
This is, needless to say, the exact same course that America is already following with Iran. The Obama administration has helped to cripple the Iranian economy (with sanctions, not words), and President Obama has repeatedly made it clear that he will “take no options off the table” to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Romney himself has acknowledged that he and the president share the same “red line” when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program.
On Afghanistan as well, Romney criticized President Obama without offering a clear policy alternative. Romney attacked Obama for planning a “politically timed retreat,” but he also promised that “I will pursue a real and successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.” This is the same “political” timeline that the Obama administration is following.
Similarly, Romney promised that he would support the Libyan people’s efforts to establish a strong democratic government, and pursue the terrorists who attacked the American consulate in Benghazi — exactly what the Obama administration is doing as we speak.
Romney echoed President Obama’s calls for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, saying “I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel.”
On this issue there’s good reason to believe that Romney does actually endorse a different strategy; during his infamous Boca Raton fundraiser in May, Romney was secretly caught on tape saying that “there’s just no way” that a two-state solution can work, because “the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace” and “the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.”
Romney did offer some clear departures from the Obama administration. He sharply criticized the decision to withdraw American troops from Iraq — which he has called “tragic” in the past — arguing that “America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence.”