Two weeks before Romney debates Obama on foreign policy, he gave his third major campaign address on American foreign policy on Monday, promising “to use America’s great power to shape history,” but providing only a few new specifics of how his policies would differ from the president’s. With the most recent polls from Real Clear Politics still indicating a 49% approval rating of Obama’s foreign policy, Romney hopes his most recent speech will give voters a clear idea of how he would lead in the world and how the president’s policies have jeopardized American interests.
Reiterating many themes from his Wall Street Journal op-ed published last week criticizing Obama’s foreign policy, Romney’s speech on Monday — given at the Virginia Military Institute — painted a picture of America falling behind in its role as the world’s superpower.
“What makes America exceptional,” Romney said, “is not just the character of our country — it is the record of our accomplishments. America has a proud history of strong, confident, principled global leadership — a history that has been written by patriots of both parties. That is America at its best ... Unfortunately, this president’s policies have not been equal to our best examples of world leadership.”
Romney criticized Obama’s handling of the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, the absence of strong American intervention in Syria, Obama’s “strained” relationship with Israel’s Netanyahu, and global counterterrorism efforts lacking a cohesive strategy.
“I know the president hopes for a safer, freer, and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States. I share this hope. But hope is not a strategy,” the Republican presidential nominee said.
Romney responded to previous criticism that his foreign policy was too vague by providing a few new specifics to clarify his promise of restoring America’s strength abroad.
In Syria, Romney would work with American partners to identify, organize, and arm rebels to “ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets.” President Obama’s policy has provided non-lethal assistance to the rebels to date, including intelligence and radio equipment.
Romney reiterated his unflinching support of Israel and vowed to “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.”
“Not just words” would be used against Iran. Romney said he would impose new sanctions, tighten the sanctions we currently have, and order the permanent presence of aircraft carriers in the region.
Romney’s call to lead with “courage and vision” as America has done before didn’t strike a chord with everyone watching.
“There’s an awful lot of rhetoric and things, but when you get to the specifics, you just get the sense he doesn’t know exactly what tools to use,” said former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. “To those not totally into foreign policy, it sounds pretty good, but it’s really full of platitudes.”
James Lindsay of the Council on Foreign Relations also found this most recent speech too vague to indicate real policy differences between Romney and Obama. “There’s absolutely nothing in this speech. This is a repackaging of language that has been a staple of Romney’s campaign since he threw his hat in the ring,” Lindsay shared. “If Romney has a foreign policy strategy, he still has not told us what it is. The governor is very fond of saying hope is not a strategy, but that cuts both ways. He didn’t answer two key questions: what he would do differently and why we should expect what he would do to work.”
While detailed policies may be absent in Romney’s rhetoric, he does describe a philosophy of leading with unequivocal and unapologetic strength abroad, using America’s economic, military and moral might to shape the world to our liking. But with most Americans more interested in the economy this election than spreading democracy and freedom abroad, Romney’s most recent speech is unlikely to win over votes.