The job of president of the United States is sometimes said to be three-quarters foreign policy. Despite this, presidential elections are often decided on domestic issues. In 2008 many questioned President Obama’s foreign and national security policy chops, having never served in uniform and serving only one term in the Senate. However, after four years in the chair and many successes under his belt, these arguments don’t carry much weight in 2012. Mitt Romney doesn’t possess a resume long on these areas either. His overseas campaign tour was unimpressive at best, and he said virtually nothing about the military, national security, or foreign policy in his convention speech in Tampa. With so little to go on, it is hard to imagine what policies a Romney administration would implement.
One would be forgiven for mistaking a list of Romney’s foreign policy and security advisers for a list of officials from the Bush era. Simply change the heading. Condoleezza Rice, John Bolton, Cofer Black, Dan Senor, Robert Zoellick, and Michael Hayden were all appointees of George W. Bush and are all advisers to Mitt Romney. It is important to have experienced folks to advise you, but it is more important that they have the right kind of experience. If one sets aside the partisan will to defend the record of George W. Bush, it is clear to see that these advisers were the architects of policy that the majority of Americans came to roundly reject. The wide victory margin of President Obama in 2008 is proof as he ran partially on a platform opposed to their policies.
Mitt Romney gave short shrift and virtually ignored the war in Afghanistan and the U.S. troops fighting there in his all-important convention speech. It is unimaginable that an aspiring Commander-in-Chief would not even give a full minute’s mention to an ongoing war in which tens of thousands of Americans are fighting.
Romney has no personal connection to the military. He sat out the Vietnam War as a missionary in France and he has rejected the idea of his sons serving in uniform when asked. When he has spoken about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was with the hawkish tone of Senator John McCain and others, but the policy specifics he has offered differ very little from the course President Obama has set.
The differences seem to be wholly rhetorical or imagined, focusing on ‘American exceptionalism’ and calling the President an apologist for America. In what little he offered on foreign policy in his convention speech, he simply called for supporting allies and opposing enemies – hardly a nuanced blueprint for how America should conduct itself in the world.
Romney has also conversely supported policies to the right of the majority of congressional Republicans. While many conservatives argued the intervention in Libya was unconstitutional, Romney criticized President Obama for not moving fast enough to intervene. He has called for armed intervention in Syria while congressional Republicans and Democrats have both so far rejected it. If one looks at the list of Bush-era neoconservatives Romney is listening to, it is easy to see why he takes the hard line rhetorically without delivering real specifics.
Romney doesn’t have enough foreign or national security experience for a job that mostly involves these policy areas. Those he has selected to shore him up previously implemented failed policies. The specific positions he has taken range either from agreeing with President Obama, differing only rhetorically, to being to the right of even fellow Republicans. It is a good thing for Mitt Romney that Americans don’t elect their president based on foreign policy.
This post originally appeared on the Truman National Security Project's Truman Doctrine blog.