Romney borrows from Obama foreign policy playbook
July 24th, 2012
10:41 PM ET

Romney borrows from Obama foreign policy playbook

By Mike Mount

As presidential races go, one expects a candidate's talking points on major issues to sometimes seem vague. Tuesday's speech by Mitt Romney laying out his foreign policy plans, at some points seemed not only vague, but not very different from President Barack Obama's positions in key areas.

The Republican presidential candidate delivered his speech before the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) a day after Obama spoke at the same convention.

While again railing against the president for removing surge troops early, before the fighting season ends in Afghanistan, he called the president's plan a politically timed retreat. But Romney did not offer any alternatives and instead called for a plan basically identical to that of the president's.

"As president, my goal in Afghanistan will be to complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014. I will evaluate conditions on the ground and solicit the best advice of our military commanders," Romney said.

In a press release sent out after the speech, it clarified that Romney's withdrawal timetable would be "based on conditions on the ground as assessed by our military commanders."

The current plan for U.S. troops in Afghanistan is to remove U.S. forces, except for a small number of trainers, by the end of 2014.

In his strongest language of his speech, Romney alluded to attacking Iran if the country does not bow to sanctions and diplomacy, though he did not offer details on what he would do if Iran did not allow in nuclear inspectors and did not halt its uranium enrichment program.

"I pledge to you and to all Americans that if I become commander-in-chief, I will use every means necessary to protect ourselves and the region, and to prevent the worst from happening while there is still time," Romney said.

The news release for his campaign said, "In his first 100 days, (Romney will) make clear that the military option is on the table by ordering the regular presence of an aircraft carrier task force in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region simultaneously."

The Obama administration earlier this month decided to keep a second aircraft carrier around Iran, in line with an existing two-year-old order that added a second aircraft carrier to the region, one in the Persian Gulf and one in the North Arabian Sea.

Romney's survey of how the Obama administration has been handling Iran criticized a lack of follow-through in diplomatic efforts.

"What's needed is all the firmness, clarity and moral courage that we and our allies can gather. Sanctions must be enforced without exception, cutting off the regime's sources of wealth. Negotiations must secure full and unhindered access for inspections," Romney said.

While this can be hard to measure, the Obama administration announced last week another round of even tougher sanctions which, the administration says, adds to the continued tightening and cutting off of money to the Iranian regime. The sanctions are also in conjunction with the European Union and involve other countries around the world.

One of the more hard-line positions was Romney's position on China. As he focused on military issues around the globe, Romney told the VFW audience China "permits flagrant patent and copyright violations, forestalls American businesses from competing in its market, manipulates its currency to obtain unfair advantage."

With growing military threats from China and suspected cyber-attacks believed to be originating from inside its borders, Romney told the crowd of military veterans, he would put a stop to economic and business "cheating" by China.

His comments were greeted by a generally sympathetic audience, although they might not have been exactly what an audience familiar with security matters might have expected.

The Romney campaign's foreign policy press release said it would, "maintain robust military capabilities in the Pacific to guarantee that trade routes remain open and East Asia's community of nations remains secure and prosperous." And, "deepen cooperation among regional partners like India and build stronger ties to influential countries like Indonesia."

Both lines reflect the ongoing policy of the Obama administration. In January the president announced a new focus on the Asia-Pacific region, and the Pentagon developed a new plan to assert more military influence in the region and adding new countries to its list of military partners.

While on a trip to the region in June, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta visited Indonesia, Vietnam and India, among others, to improve the Pentagon's military-to-military ties.

One point where Romney and Obama seemingly do stand apart is on the defense budget. Romney wants to reverse the planned massive spending cuts for the military and, in fact, grow the military. And while he outlined his plans to purchase more ships for the Navy, the Navy's fleet is already schedule to grow in the coming years.

Romney also told the audience that across-the-board automatic budget cuts – known as sequestration - would "weaken an already stretched VA system and impair our solemn commitment that every veteran receives care second to none."

While Romney was not clear on what he meant about weakening the VA, President Obama has said that sequestration would not affect veterans' benefits or any Veterans Affairs programs, exempting them from the potential sequestration cuts if they take effect on January 2, 2013.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Foreign Policy • Obama • Romney
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Rick from LA

    Is Romney campaigning for himself or Obama? Romney is proposing policy changes that Obama is already implementing, so basically vote for a president that may increase our miltary strength in Asia or one that already is.

    July 25, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Reply
  2. Steve

    How about a foreign policy of it's OK to fight in Vietnam, while claim missionary status to stay out of Vietnam.. He might not be Obama, but he sure is cast in the mold of Dubya, and Cheney when it comes to serving in a war zone

    July 25, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Reply
  3. American People

    We want to see Romney's tax returns for the last 20 years.

    July 25, 2012 at 11:42 am | Reply
  4. TruthMatters

    "If it aint broke don't fix it" Seems like Romney is a believer of the phrase. Hopefully voters are too so this pancake doesn't get voted into office.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:45 am | Reply
  5. Sam

    Romney's economic plan: Invest large sums of money into the photocopy machine industry by outlawing the practice of original ideas.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:42 am | Reply
  6. jbm66

    Romney is a complete Joke. Not to mention a fraud. I am also very disappointed in the Obama administration. He is too weak on domestic policies, does what is politically expedient. Although i give him high marks on forein policy.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:18 am | Reply
  7. StanCalif

    Romney has no "real plan" for anything! Obama won the Presidency just because he was not a Bush! He even won a Nobel Prize for "not being a Bush"! Romney is following the same game plan, "I am not Obama, vote for me!" But, no one has any idea what Romney has in mind, other than keeping taxes low for his rich friends. Romney will certainly win no Nobel Prize for simply "not being Obama"! Will Romney go to war with Iran (for Israel's benefit), very likely. Will Romney start a trade war with China, very likely. Will Romney do anything to reduce the deficit, extremely unlikely!

    July 25, 2012 at 8:16 am | Reply
  8. degazmatic

    Let me get this straight... Romney is going to implement policies that president already has in place? What? Its like pledging to add more girls to the girl scouts. Sheesh. Why cant if be original for once. His policies are either from bush or obama. Willard etch a sketch multiple choice romney lacks anything called substance. If he says he wants mormons to rule the world I would understand.

    July 25, 2012 at 8:00 am | Reply
    • StanCalif

      A Romney presidency will keep copy machines busy for weeks! He has NO original ideas and doesn't even pretend to have any! Copy the Bush tax cuts, copy "Obama Care", copy Obama's withdrawal plan from these senseless wars. Rename everything to please the lobbyists then go forward with yet another war (to please Israel), start a trade war with China, cut taxes some more (for the wealthy) increase the military budget, then blame Obama for the deficit!

      July 25, 2012 at 8:36 am | Reply
  9. Quigley

    Like peter tetteroo already said below, if this Mitt Robmey gets elected, it will be another defeat for the middle class plus we'll have another useless and unnecessary war on our hands where hundreds of thousands, if not millions will needlessly lose their lives so that the elite in America get get ever richer! Enough is enough!

    July 25, 2012 at 12:21 am | Reply
  10. Michael

    I doubt Romney could find his a** with both hands when it comes to foreign policy. Criticizing our foreign policy right before you head overseas is the mark of a traitor, undermining our security.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:19 am | Reply
  11. peter tetteroo

    Romney doesn't have a single idea in his head about how to create jobs or manage foreign policy. What, a trade war with China? Even the people who have bought and paid for Romney won't go for that. Now talk of another unfunded war, ultimately paid for by the middle class, while the unAmerican wealthy elite like Romney contribute as little as possible.
    Mark my words, if Romney gets elected, he will be a disaster to our countriy's economic well-being.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:05 am | Reply

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