Would Mitt Romney make the world a better place?

Mitt Romney delivers a foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia on 8 October 2012 Mitt Romney doesn't like Barack Obama's foreign policy, but what would he actually change?

Mitt Romney has a stark warning for all of us: Another four years of Obama and the world will "grow darker".

But if he is elected, he will secure America's interests, further its values and prevent conflict. He'll do so, moreover, "wisely, with solemnity, without false pride but also firmly and actively".

He says he would do this by building up America's military and spending more on the navy, building 15 new ships a year, by standing by friends and by standing up to enemies. He would put a new emphasis on free trade deals.

It is at the core of Mr Romney's case that President Obama hasn't led the world, allowing American power to atrophy and creating a dangerous vacuum.

As he put it today: "Leaving our destiny at the mercy of events."

There's no doubt there is a real difference in the way the two men see the world, and how they think America should behave.

What is less clear is what, other than rhetoric, would actually change if Mr Romney was in the White House. So I'll try to pick out what President Romney would actually, practically, do differently.

Which course change?

There is a real, if subtle, difference over Iran. Mr Romney draws a red line much earlier. He says he would "prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability". The current policy is to stop Iran from building a bomb.

He says "we must make clear to Iran through actions - not just words - that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated". He does not say what these actions might be.

He does, like Mr Obama, promise tougher sanctions.

There is a very different attitude to Israel. Mitt Romney says strains between Mr Obama and the Israeli prime minister are dangerous for the world.

He's made it clear in the past he would allow no daylight between Israel and America. In practical terms, Mr Romney has already said he would support any military action by Israel against Iran.

Most of the speech was spent on the revolutions in the Middle East. He criticised the president for having no overall strategy for the region.

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He wants America to aggressively support democrats in the face of tyranny, but he does not say what should happen when democracy produces results that America may not like. ”

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That sounds like very big news indeed. But there is really very little flesh on it.

He does not say what he would have done differently in Egypt or Libya. He does not say how he would encourage democracy in Saudi Arabia or Bahrain. In fact, he doesn't reveal his own strategy.

On Syria, he does say that he would ensure the Syrian opposition gets "the arms they need to defeat Assad's tanks, helicopters and fighter jets".

He doesn't say if the US or other allies should supply them. He doesn't suggest that the US should take military action there.

He says Iraq "has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence". He doesn't say if he would return them to the country.

He is critical of policy in Afghanistan as "a politically timed retreat… that abandons the Afghan people".

But he doesn't promise to keep American troops there, saying only that he would "evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the best advice of our military commanders".

Mr Romney once described Russia as the US's biggest geopolitical enemy, but "Putin's Russia" just gets two mentions, when he warns of the shadow cast over young democracies and then when he promises there will be "no flexibility" over missile defence.

Russia does better than China, which gets just one mention, a warning that its "recent assertiveness is sending chills through the region".

Messy democracies

Perhaps we should not expect too much of a speech delivered 30 days away from an election. But Mr Romney does not attempt to exercise any intellectual muscle when he tries to square a very old circle.

He wants America to aggressively support democrats in the face of tyranny, but he does not say what should happen when democracy produces results that America may not like.

He does not say how to judge who to back in messy revolutions. How, for instance, would he arm rebels in Syria, and ensure the weapons did not not end up in the hands of the political kin of those who murdered the US ambassador in Libya?

He does not try to calibrate the difference between leadership and the appearance of America imposing its will.

As an attack on Mr Obama's foreign policy, it was a good campaign speech, but it did not suggest Mr Romney had grappled with the very real dilemmas he would face if he became president.

Mark Mardell, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    402 ‘It is funny to you and likely only you. You link to The Onion on a serious matter with no logical indication of why.’

    The Onion is a popular site. It is found amusing by many.

    I linked to it for this reason. And also because it made a serious point to humorous effect

    I thought this would be obvious to even the meanest intelligence. Perhaps not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    MagicKirin@455"It's incorrect your analysis is incorect..."

    Calm down for goodness sake! Your agitation only makes me laugh, and I'm sure that's not what you're after.

    Did you mean "Democratic PARTY ideals?" Take a deep breath and try to understand the difference. I am very attached to democratic ideals, by and large (although sometimes...)

    And yes I have. Twice. It turned out badly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    Phffft :

    "Taliban were killing way before US & UK got involved."

    Poppycock !

    The UK , the US and the Saudis were involved in Afghanistan long before the Taliban ever popped up. In fact they helped recruit, arm and train the jihadist groups (Mujahideen) combatting the Soviets, who later formed Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

    We are Dr. Frankenstein and Al Qaeda is our very own monster.

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    ref #454

    It's incorrect your analysis is incorect and blinded by your fealty to Democratic ideals.

    Tell me have youe ver voted for or supported a Republican canidate.

    I can say I voted for Dems which to my mind makes me a more honest evaluator than those who are distorting Romney view and yes you are one of those.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    Phffft@445"You are a hypocrite"

    No, I'm honest -- & that's something you people can't comprehend.

    I've done everything within my power to help the poor, the young, & women understand why Romney is a bad choice for them. Some listen, some don't. Xin loi.

    I'm looking good thanks to old age, 45+ years of work, & knowing that Republicans will pay for their stupidity in the end.

    Is that wrong?

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    452* Typo Error s/b Iranian (not Iraqi) schoolchildren

    I̶r̶a̶n̶i̶a̶n̶ ̶C̶h̶i̶l̶d̶r̶e̶n̶ will get the strikethrough

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    Terrorism has grown more don't play liar, it was totally predictable it would

    If there are more terrorists since America first went in 1990 and again in 2003 then the effect of constant war is causing not preventing terrorism

    Mitt wants US to support Israel war in Iran which will affect their children's studies too (Iraqi children not American or Israeli children)

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    448. Billythefirst

    Well, it certainly won't start a war, which is what hysterical dems are claiming. And for all Obama's calmness, they are fighting and involved in power struggles as they have always been there.

    Dems are fighting Bush's ghosts. When O hired Clinton's staff did it mean he would have a Monica in the Oval Office? No, different person, folks. Romney is not Bush.

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    -lock stock and barrel-soon start quarrel-

    Taliban were killing way before US & UK got involved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    How can society be better after wars, Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya have become more dangerous than they ever were. Revenge for 911 has killed people who had nothing to do with it. Both went on for 10 years and economic growth died this millennium

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    # 447
    But Mitt's Middle East diplomacy will calm things down, won't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    For all those who claim it is only the right wing who criticize Obama on foriegn policy.

    Lara Logan of CBS says Obama is naive if he thinks the Tailban threat is lessened (paraphrasing)

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    with respect to Mr. Romney's comments on U.S. Foreign affairs.

    * nothing is too easy for the person who does not have to do it.

    *55% of all military spending in the world is U.S. (2nd is China at 17% of U.S. spending.

    * economics 101--guns or butter. War has a poor economic return, human tragedy, and morally reprehensible.

    *but societies must protect themselves and help others when they can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    441. Curt Carpenter

    To have called me a selfish Conservative few days back .Then say

    " I'm looking pretty good whatever happens."

    You are a hypocrite.But then the left often are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    442 Can you tell me where the US War Agenda in Afghanistan states it was to liberate woman rights in Afghanistan or was a war against muslims as thats the brand new claim by warmongers attempting to justify their actions. Many woman and children died as a result of US, UK etc operations what do you say about that if you care about them at all with your selective piece of news

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    Phffft@442"Is there a finer calling."

    "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    439. -lock stock and barrel-soon start quarrel-
    To call any one muck reflects on the insult-er.You have views from your vantage point,so do others from theirs.Things are many shades of grey.What say you,the shooting of that young girl in Afghanistan through the head just because she wanted an education?.
    Service personnel give their lives to help others.Is there a finer calling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    AndreaNY@437"Your bitterness is unbecoming."

    I suppose it is. 6000+ young men & women and a few hundred thousand civilians dead in "discretionary" wars can do that to ya.

    But again: I can find something to cheer me up either way this election goes. Romney would be too bad for women, the poor, & the young, but hey: every man for himself, right?

    I'm looking pretty good whatever happens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    430 You haven't explained the act* & how it caused the crises
    possibly you don't really know-you told us you was intelligent
    & implied you understood investment banking & regulations more than your blame bill clinton soundbite
    (*) Gramm–Leach–Bliley were Republicans & their act allowed banks to consolidate banking business operations merging
    Reckless trading MBS was performed during GWB watch

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    Obama would be better off having nothing to do with low life Americans jerking him around while helping the country. In 4 years he aged 6 years and received pure unadulterated ignorance and hate from American common muck, who are too stupid not to blame GOP for their trash and corruption in office and subsequently in congress


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