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Opinion

What would 'President Romney' do about Syria?

The same thing President Obama has been doing. Contrary to his condemnations of Obama's foreign policy, handling of the Syria crisis, and stance toward Bashar al-Assad, Romney would effectively have the same policy on Syria as Obama.

By Andrew C. Miller / July 25, 2012

Mitt Romney addresses the 113th Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Convention in Reno, Nev., July 24. Though Romney has criticized Obama's handling of the Syria crisis, op-ed contributor Andrew C. Miller argues their actual policies on the matter would be the essentially the same. He notes that there are 'realities that Romney can ignore on the campaign trail but would have to grapple with in the Oval Office.'

James Glover/Reuters

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Judging from headlines, one might think Mitt Romney has a radically different approach to the Syria crisis than President Obama: “Romney slams Obama Syria policy, calls for arming rebel forces” (The Hill) is just one example. As Syria continues to unravel, Mr. Romney continues to criticize the president – even giving Mr. Obama an “F” grade in foreign policy partly for his handling of the crisis. Romney devoted much of his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nev. Tuesday to lambasting Obama’s foreign policy.

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How then would “President Romney” handle Syria? Contrary to his condemnations, Romney would effectively have the same policy as Obama. The lack of specific alternatives on Syria in his VFW speech only underscores that reality.

Romney suggests that the president has done little except “sublet” the crisis response to Russia and the United Nations. Obama’s actions are even “emboldening Assad and discouraging the dissidents,” according to the GOP candidate. On Monday, he told CNBC “I think from the very beginning we misread the setting in Syria” and that “America should've come out very aggressively from the very beginning and said Assad must go.”

But Romney himself hasn’t laid out a comprehensive policy for Syria (nor has the administration, for that matter). A close look at the hodgepodge of statements from Romney and his advisors paint a clear picture of what his policy might look like if he were president.

On the most hawkish option, military intervention, Obama and Romney see eye-to-eye. They have both rejected misguided calls for a Libyan-style operation. Romney has publicly recognized the inefficacy of a no-fly zone, in opposition to members of his own party like Senator John McCain who continue to call for such measures.

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