Obama's Foreign Policy Record vs. Romney's Foreign Policy Plans

Originally  published on 10/9/2012


In preparation for the upcoming presidential  debate on foreign policy, let’s examine key areas of the president’s foreign policy as compared to Mitt Romney’s stated foreign policy goals.




The Obama administration continues to refuse to set “red lines” for Iran, apparently unmoved by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speech to the United Nations.


The sanctions imposed have been relatively easy to undermine, due to Iran’s alliances with China, Cuba, Russia, Venezuela and others.  As former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton has indicated,  Tehran does not “buy our theories of deterrence.”


Romney believes that U.S. policy toward Iran “must begin with an understanding on Iran’s part that a military option to deal with their nuclear program remains on the table. This message should not only be delivered through words, but through actions. The United States should restore the regular presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region simultaneously. The United States should repair relations with Israel, increase military coordination and assistance, and enhance intelligence sharing to ensure that our allied capabilities are robust and ready to deal with Iran.”


A Romney administration would implement a fifth round of tougher sanctions, support the Iranian opposition and commit to the on-time completion of a fully capable missile defense system.




Obama’s Russian policy has been transformed from “reset” to “regret.”  The Obama administration has failed to advance Russia toward a more mutually beneficial relationship with the United States. President Obama’s reset policy began with the withdrawal, minus reciprocal concessions, from President Bush’s strategy to place a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Obama continued the same “we give, Russia gets” policy in signing the New START treaty in 2010. While the treaty compels the U.S. to reduce nuclear launcher and warhead limits, the levels it allows for Russia are above what the Russians possessed at the time the agreement was reached.


Mitt Romney, on the other hand, would implement a “strategy that seeks to discourage aggressive or expansionist behavior on the part of Russia and encourage democratic political and economic reform.  This will include decreasing Europe’s energy reliance on Russia, building stronger relationships with Central Asia and supporting civil society.”




In Asia, China has steadily been attempting to undermine the decades-old U.S. alliance system and present itself as the region’s dominant power. Additionally, the harassment of U.S. naval ships by Chinese maritime forces is just one aspect of the goal to alter how U.S. ships operate in Asian littoral waters.


Former Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg drafted a China policy of “strategic reassurance.” The folly of “strategic reassurance” has become all too clear. In the first two years of the Obama administration, Beijing failed to hold up its end of the “tacit bargain.”


Romney asserts that “while the potential for conflict with an authoritarian China could rise as its power grows, the United States must pursue policies designed to encourage Beijing to embark on a course that makes conflict less likely. China must be discouraged from attempting to intimidate or dominate neighboring states. Mitt Romney will implement a strategy that makes the path of regional hegemony for China far more costly than the alternative path of becoming a responsible partner in the international system.”


Romney’s plan seeks to maintain robust military capabilities in the Pacific, deepen cooperation among regional partners and defend human rights.


Middle East


The U.S. struggle in Afghanistan persists, while our troops continue to be killed by supposed allies–to whom the country will be turned over upon the departure of the U.S. Iraq is gradually becoming an Iranian vassal state, al Qaeda has made a comeback and U.S. influence in the area has plummeted. The president failed to support democratic regime change in Iran and was instrumental in the establishment of Islamist governments in the region. New details continue to emerge regarding the Benghazi murders, demonstrating the lack of security and military preparedness that preceded the killing of four Americans.


Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia


Romney has explained that his administration would “support those individuals and groups that are seeking to instill lasting democratic values and build sturdy democratic institutions that will sustain open societies in countries that have been closed for too long. Mitt will make available technical assistance to governments and transitional bodies to promote democracy, good governance, and sound financial management. One official with responsibility and accountability will be able to set regional priorities, craft a unified regional strategic plan, and properly direct our soft power toward ensuring the Arab Spring realizes its promise.”




Romney’s vision for Syria:


“The United States must recognize Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad for what he is: an unscrupulous dictator, a killer, and a proxy for Iran. For far too long, the Obama administration held out hope that it could negotiate with Assad to stop his violent crackdown on pro-democracy protestors. It even labeled him a “reformer” while he was turning heavy weapons on his own people. Mitt Romney holds no illusions about Assad’s character or about Iran’s interest in maintaining a client regime in Damascus.


Mitt Romney believes the United States should pursue a strategy of isolating and pressuring the Assad regime to increase the likelihood of a peaceful transition to a legitimate government. We should redouble our push for the U.N. Security Council to live up to its responsibilities and impose sanctions that cut off funding sources that serve to maintain the regime’s grip on power. We should work with Saudi Arabia and Turkey to call on Syria’s military to protect civilians rather than attack them. This effort would aim to drive a wedge between Assad and his military, minimize violence, and increase the possibility that the ruling minority Alawites will be able to reconcile with the majority Sunni population in a post-Assad Syria. And we should make clear that the United States and our allies will support the Syrian opposition when the time comes for them to forge a post-Assad government.”

Most notably, Romney would support the Syrian opposition, which includes Islamist groups, but has also stressed that he would “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.”




Mitt Romney plans to “enter office seeking to use the broad array of our foreign-policy tools — diplomatic, economic, and military — to establish a lasting relationship with Iraq and guarantee that Baghdad remains a solid partner in a volatile and strategically vital region.”




Spero News reports:


“In Nigeria, certainly the most under-reported, Washington’s position on daily killings of Christians, weekly bombings of churches, government and perceived “western” institutions by an Islamist terror group’s insurgency is to pontificate that more economic incentives need to be provided to the terror-prone zones by Nigeria’s government.


The case of Nigeria is however more unsettling. True the culprit Islamist terror group Boko Haram has made the government itself and Christians in particular its declared target, but in a remarkable twist, the US has managed to point disapproving fingers at Nigeria’s mild-mannered accidental president  former zoology professor Goodluck Jonathan.  According to the US,  Nigeria’s Muslim north feel uncared for by Jonathan and must get more federal checks in addition to the billions of dollars  distributed to those states – from the oil produced in his southern home region – as mandated by the constitution.”


The genocidal situation in Kenya and Sudan is similar as was the case on the Ivory Coast.


Mitt’s administration would move to “bolster economic ties and the rule of law believing that the United States must regard Africa not as a problem to be contained, but as an opportunity to be embraced by us and our partners on the continent. Recognizing that Africa’s road to stability and prosperity lies through a robust private sector economy, increased trade, and good governance. A Romney administration will encourage and assist African nations to adopt policies that create business-friendly environments and combat governmental corruption. Such policies will lift those nations and their people, boost economic ties to the United States, and provide greater certainty to U.S. and international investors. Greater market access across the continent for U.S. businesses will bolster job creation in Africa as well as in the United States. Additionally, Romney would lead on issues of security and human rights.”




Some key points of Obama’s foreign policy regarding Israel:


  • The US has condemned the Israeli government’s decision to expand settlement construction, saying that it undermines peace efforts.


  • In October 2011, in a legal brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Hillary Clinton urged the justices to not refer to Jerusalem part of Israel. At issue is the birthplace designation on passports given to US citizens born in Israel. The policy states that those born in Jerusalem must have their place of birth listed as Jerusalem rather than Israel. This rule applies to no other capital city in the world.
  • Jerusalem (along with, no less significantly, the Palestinian “right of return” and Hamas) had been omitted from the Democratic Party’s platform for 2012. It was, however, reinstated via a congressional voice vote.
  • The Obama administration’s overtures to Middle East leaders has encouraged them act more boldly than they likely otherwise would.
  • One of Obama’s strategies has included demanding serious concessions from Israel and nothing from the Palestinians. During a 2009 speech in Cairo, the president said: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.”
  • During a U.N. speech in 2010 Obama spoke of coming back the next year with a new member of the United Nations–an independent and sovereign state of Palestine.

Mitt Romney has described Israel as the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East and “a beacon of democracy and freedom in the region. To ensure Israel’s security, Mitt Romney will work closely with Israel to maintain its strategic military edge. The United States will work intensively with Turkey and Egypt to shore up the now fraying relationships with Israel that have underpinned peace in the Middle East for decades. The United States must forcefully resist the emergence of anti-Israel policies in Turkey and Egypt, and work to make clear that their interests are not served by isolating Israel.


With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mitt’s policy will differ sharply from President Obama’s. As president, Mitt will reject any measure that would frustrate direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He will make clear to the Palestinians that the unilateral attempt to decide issues that are designated for final negotiations by the Oslo Accords is unacceptable. The United States will reduce assistance to the Palestinians if they continue to pursue United Nations recognition or form a unity government that includes Hamas, a terrorist group dedicated to Israel’s destruction. The United States needs a president who will not be a fair-weather friend of Israel. The United States must work as a country to resist the worldwide campaign to delegitimize Israel. We must fight against that campaign in every forum and label it the anti-Semitic poison that it is. Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is not up for debate.”