The Candidates and The World

Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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Midday Update: Debate on Romney’s Foreign Policy Speech

by Newsteam Staff
October 9, 2012

Photo of the Day: President Obama speaks at a concert in San Francisco October 8, 2012. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters) Photo of the Day: President Obama in San Francisco October 8, 2012. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

In a foreign policy speech Monday, GOP nominee Mitt Romney put forward policies that are similar to policies pursued by President Obama, reports Bloomberg News. Daniel W. Drezner in Foreign Policy agrees, saying that looking beyond the “overheated rhetoric” shows that Romney wants a lot of the same ends as Barack Obama.”

Romney did draw a major distinction between himself and President Obama (ABC) on Syria in his speech, saying he would “work with our partners to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets.”

And CFR’s James Lindsay, in a blog post Friday, concluded a Romney presidency might produce a very different foreign policy. He noted potential divergence on Russian relations, Israel, and foreign aid. “[M]any foreign policy choices are close calls,” Lindsay writes. “So even men with similar world views and pragmatic streaks can disagree about which is the right one, and even closely decided decisions can have immensely different consequences.”

CFR’s Micah Zenko listed five principles of Romney’s foreign policy in a blog post yesterday, in which he noted “Romney’s repeated conviction that it is the duty and responsibility of the United States to shape and lead the world.” CFR’s Gayle Tzemach Lemmon picked up on a similar point in a Reuters op-ed, describing Romney’s vision for an “American century.”

Read the full text of Romney’s speech here.

Read what the candidates are proposing for a number of major foreign policy topics in these CFR Issue Trackers.


A recent poll by the Military Times shows active and reserve troops supporting Mitt Romney over President Obama nearly two to one (66 percent to 26 percent). The poll notes that “surprisingly, most of the military members polled cited the economy for backing Romney and not national security” (CBS).

Despite the focus in the economy, poll respondents also faulted Obama’s defense policies, with 57 percent rating his handling of Afghanistan as fair to poor and 67 percent giving the same rating on his handling of the defense budget.

Obama still leads Romney among U.S. voters on the topic of who would make better foreign policy decisions according to a recent Pew survey.

Read more about the candidates’ positions on defense policy in this CFR Issue Tracker.


In a less publicized debate, surrogates for both the Romney and Obama campaigns discussed energy (E&E TV) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last Friday.

This CFR Issue Tracker looks at both candidates’ stances on energy policy.

–Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri

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