WARSAW, Poland -- In some areas, he’d be different from President Barack Obama. In others, even when his fiery rhetoric suggests a dramatic change, Mitt Romney actually would act much like Obama.
The subject is national defense and foreign policy, key areas of U.S. government largely overshadowed in a presidential campaign focused overwhelmingly on a struggling economy at home. Now, the gaffes and missteps of his recent overseas trip aside, Romney has laid out the most detailed look to date at what a President Romney would do to keep the United States safe and help it prosper abroad, how he would protect allies and stand up to foes.
He’d take a harder line against Russia. He’d press China on trade. He’d add 100,000 U.S. troops and build more ships for the Navy. He’d deploy and maintain two aircraft carrier groups in waters near Iran to signal U.S. resolve. He’d arm Syrian rebels who are friendly to the U.S.
But Romney’s policies would dovetail with Obama’s in some major ways. He’d give the military more control over the pace of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, but he’d keep Obama’s pledge to get U.S. troops out by the end of 2014. He’d signal more toughness toward Iran by sending more Navy ships and seeking the indictment of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but he’d follow the same broad approach to Iran – sanctions backed by the possibility of military force.
To Simon Serfaty, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan German Marshall Fund of the United States, Romney’s approach suggests a return to the neoconservative philosophy of President George W. Bush’s administration, particularly on Israel.
But others noted that despite Romney’s language of bold changes, the practical effect on policy is not likely to change radically, at least initially, from that of the Obama administration. “Once you’re in the White House you’re captured by the DNI (Director of National Intelligence), Homeland Security, the entire bureaucracy,” said Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Region by region, here’s a look at Romney’s policies as detailed over the last week from a major speech in Nevada through a six-day trek to the United Kingdom, Israel and Poland:
In a significant shift, Romney would be less inclined to negotiate with the Palestinians, Syria, Iran, or any other nation or interest in the region that might pose a threat to Israel.
“He (Romney) doesn’t see the major players (in the Middle East) the way Obama does,” Serfaty said. “There are the good guys and the bad guys.”
While advocating and supporting people-driven regime change within Iran, Romney would also make clear that his administration would “employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course,” said Dan Senor, a former Bush administration official in Iraq. One pressure point Romney is promising: the deployment in his first 100 days of aircraft carrier task forces to the Eastern Mediterranean and to the Persian Gulf region simultaneously.
“In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded. Gov. Romney recognizes Israel’s right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with it,” Senor said.