National Security Network

Romney Pushes for ‘Strong’ Foreign Policy but Offers Few Specifics on Afghanistan

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News The Envoy 7 October 2011

Diplomacy Diplomacy 2012 conservative foreign policy Foreign Policy Mitt Romney

by Laura Rozen

Speaking at South Carolina's Citadel military academy Friday, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney offered the first extended glimpse of what his foreign policy agenda would be should he be elected president next November. The current GOP presidential primary front runner pledged to counter narratives of American decline by strengthening the military and ushering in a "new American century," The Ticket's Holly Bailey reports.

But on specific issues--such as how to reconcile American public concerns with the soaring national debt with his proposal for expanded military spending, and what his timetable would be for the ten year old war in Afghanistan--Romney was notably vague, some foreign policy experts observed.

"Romney lambasted Obama's foreign-affairs record as a series of "feckless policies" that have diminished the nation's standing around the world," Bailey writes:

"This is America's moment. We should embrace the challenge, not shrink from it, not crawl into an isolationist shell, not wave the white flag of surrender, nor give in to those who assert America's time has passed," Romney declared. "That is utter nonsense. An eloquently justified surrender of world leadership is still surrender."

In an another dig at Obama, Romney declared he would "not surrender America's role in the world."

"This is very simple: If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your president. You have that president today," Romney announced--a remark that drew wild applause. [...]

Among other things, he vowed to strengthen naval power by increasing shipbuilding—a message that was no doubt aimed at voters in South Carolina, which is home to one of the largest navy ship facilities in the country.Romney also promised to increase efforts to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and said he would "prioritize" funding for a national missile defense system. ...

Romney's speech seemed to hint back toward policies pushed by the Bush administration. That's not surprising, given that many of the ex-governor's foreign-policy hands have either worked for or advised the Bush administration. But while the Romney campaign acknowledged some overlap between his positions and those trumpeted by Bush, they argued the ex-governor would have a different approach. [...]

Romney also said, if elected, he would initiate a review of the U.S. war in Afghanistan -- which marked its tenth anniversary Friday.

Obama's announced plans to withdraw the 30,000 surged American troops in Afghanistan over the next year has fairly broad American public support. But some Republican presidential candidates-as Democratic lawmakers-have alternately urged Obama to accelerate the U.S. drawdown, while others have argued to not announce a scheduled departure at all.

Romney's speech drew mixed reaction from foreign policy experts on both sides of the aisle. Some raised questions about what they described as the ex-governor's inconsistent statements on Afghanistan. They suggested his call Friday for a review of U.S. policy in the region did not offer much further clarity on his ultimate intentions there.

"What do you really think about Afghanistan?" Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank, wrote in a list of open questions for Romney Friday."In June, you said: 'It's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can--as soon as our generals think it's okay.' . . . You have since suggested President Obama should slow the troop drawdown."

"Fight or run?" Pletka challenged. "It's time to clarify."

"Which Mitt Romney will show up at the Citadel to give a 'major foreign policy address'?" echoed former Clinton administration speechwriter Heather Hurlburt, executive director of the progressive National Security Network, in a press statement from the group Friday.

"Will we see Tea Party-pleasing Mitt who's proposed getting out of Afghanistan and staying out of the international effort on Libya?" Hurlburt asked. "War Party Mitt--who supports unending war in Afghanistan, a new war in Iran and U.S. troops to Pakistan -- and who just named the Bush old guard to his national security team?"

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