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Romney as foreign policy wonk

His recent critiques of President Obama's military and diplomatic policies are long on bluster and short on detailed disagreements.

July 26, 2012
  • Mitt Romney speaks to veterans at the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars before departing for London to kick off a six-day foreign trip to England, Israel and Poland.
Mitt Romney speaks to veterans at the 113th National Convention of the Veterans… (Justin Sullivan / Getty…)

As he begins a weeklong trip to Britain, Israel and Poland designed to burnish his foreign policy credentials, Mitt Romney is offering a critique of President Obama's military and diplomatic policies that is long on bluster and short on detailed disagreements.

So far, he has provided mostly hyperbole, broad and vague criticisms, and cheap shots. In a speech Tuesday to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, for instance, he said that Obama had "given trust where it is not earned, insult where it is not deserved, and apology where it is not due." He revived the canard that Obama has been traipsing around the world apologizing for America and accused the president of lecturing Israel, undermining its position and speaking "as if our closest ally in the Middle East was the problem."

"If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on earth, I am not your president," Romney told the veterans. "You have that president today."

EDITORIAL: Romney pandering on the world stage

But the devil is in the details, and Romney was frugal with them. True, there has been some friction between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as there has been between American and Israeli leaders in the past. But Romney's indictment of Obama as unfriendly to Israel was almost comically over the top. No less deceptive was his suggestion that national security was threatened by "Obama's massive defense cuts," a reference to planned across-the-board spending cuts agreed to as part of last year's bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling.

Stripped of its exaggerations, Romney's speech yielded surprisingly few differences of substance. He played up the fact that he opposed Obama's decision last year to downsize the U.S. militarypresence in Afghanistan "during the fighting season." But he also noted that his goal for the future is to "complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014" — the very plan Obama and NATO are pursuing.

Romney insisted that Iran completely cease enrichment of uranium, but the Obama administration and the U.N. Security Council also seek a "full suspension" of enrichment. (However, in recent negotiations the administration has focused on trying to persuade Iran to first halt production of its more highly enriched uranium, which is most conducive to weaponization.) Romney didn't say what he would do if Iran resisted this demand. In the past he, like Obama, has supported a combination of economic sanctions and a threat of a military option.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS: Presidential Election 2012

In deference to the (much-breached) tradition that political differences stop at the water's edge, Romney supporters had suggested that the candidate would use his remarks on the eve of his journey to spell out significant ways in which a Romney foreign policy would be different. We're still waiting.

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