“You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”
For Obama, the approach was a new one, neither the bring-em-on bravado of George W. Bush in the post-2001 days nor the dovish approach his critics have claimed.
Romney worked a very different angle.
He did not attack Obama for the administration’s handling of the terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomats in Libya. Instead, while vowing a strong American military and aggressive foreign policy, he wrapped that fist in a diplomatic globe meant to reassure the country and perhaps the world.
“We can’t kill our way out of this mess,” he said of the Middle East. “We’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the world of Islam and other parts of the world reject this radical violent extremism.”
He said he’d also use U.S. forces to hunt down and kill terrorists.
“But my strategy is broader than that,” he said. “The key that we’re going to have to pursue is a pathway to get the Muslim world to be able to reject extremism on its own.”
Mindful of the political fight here for women’s votes, he mentioned the need to help women overseas several times.
He said the Arab Spring, for example, promised “opportunity for greater participation on the part of women in public life and in economic life in the Middle East” but has not delivered. At another point, Romney included gender equality among his top goals to help stabilize the Middle East, along with economic development and education.
For Romney, accused by Obama at one point of being a throwback to the Cold War 1980s, the goal was another historical lesson from those days. When Ronald Reagan debated President Jimmy Carter in their one faceoff in 1980, Reagan dispelled the image of him a dangerous, inexperienced warmonger, and won the election.