Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Opinion

On foreign policy, differences hard to see

Mitt Romney claims to disagree with President Barack Obama on many aspects of foreign policy. We're still waiting to hear what those differences might be.

I wasn't surprised that Romney's highly touted "major policy speech" on foreign affairs Monday offered few specifics. But even in its generalities, Romney's tour d'horizon sounded very much like a speech Obama might have given recounting his overseas initiatives over the past four years.

Romney pledged to "put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability." Obama has repeatedly said the same thing, most recently in his address to the U.N. General Assembly last month, when he said the United States "will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

Romney said he would "work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination." Obama has done just that, according to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who said in July that "this administration, under President Obama, is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past."

Romney said that in Syria, he would "identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values" and then work "through our international partners" in the region to ensure those rebel forces obtain the arms they need. Obama has done that, too. This summer, according to widespread reports, Obama signed an intelligence "finding" authorizing covert assistance to the Syrian rebels. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been supporting the rebels with arms under U.S. guidance.

In Afghanistan, Romney said, he will work to ensure a "real and successful transition" of security control to Afghan forces "by the end of 2014." That is basically a word-for-word recitation of Obama's policy. Which Romney has criticized in the past. But never mind.

Specifically in Libya, but also throughout the Middle East, Romney promised to make clear that the United States stands with those who seek democracy, freedom and prosperity — and that we stand against the forces of extremism and terrorism, such as al-Qaida. "In short, it's a struggle between liberty and tyranny," Romney said. Moments earlier, Romney had described the slaying of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, Libya, and the events that followed. Tens of thousands of Libyans poured into the streets to denounce the terrorists who mounted the attack — and to express their support for the United States. Well, in Libya, as elsewhere, people already have a good idea where this country stands.

In his secretly recorded "47 percent" remarks in May, Romney said the Palestinians have "no interest whatsoever" in peace with Israel, and therefore proposed to kick the peace process can down the road until this attitude changes. In his speech Monday, Romney retreated to the position taken by both George W. Bush and Obama: There should be "a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state" side by side with Israel.

"On this vital issue, the president has failed," Romney said. And this is true. Obama joins presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush the Elder, Clinton and Bush the Younger in not having brought full and lasting peace to the Middle East.

I did hear one concrete departure from Obama's policies. Romney pledged to increase the Defense Department's budget. Specifically, he promised that he would have the Navy build 15 new ships a year, including three submarines.

For the moment, leave aside the fact that this is spending the nation can't afford and the Pentagon doesn't want. What does Romney intend for these new naval assets, and the other weapons systems his spending would buy, to accomplish? What's the mission? Is it to show we're the only remaining superpower? Is there a human being who doesn't get that?

If Romney weren't pretending to believe that government spending never boosts the economy, I'd say his Pentagon shopping spree sounds awfully like a Keynesian stimulus program.

I'm not arguing that Obama's foreign policy has been perfect. I can think of a number of situations I believe he should have handled differently.

But I defy anyone who heard Romney's speech to explain how he differs from Obama, practically or even philosophically.

To the extent there's any distinction at all, it's rhetorical. Romney seems to believe that speaking in a more belligerent tone somehow changes everything. The world is unlikely to be impressed.

© 2012 Washington Post Writers Group

Comments

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Floridaís juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scottís administration was defensive and obtuse. So itís welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17