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Mitt Romney to lay out foreign policy, national security agenda (+video)

Following a series of rhetorical stumbles, Mitt Romney is scheduled to lay out his more muscular foreign policy and national security agenda at the Virginia Military Institute Monday. But is it really all that different from President Obama's?

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In a Wall Street Journal op-ed column last week, Romney stressed the importance of “placing no daylight between the United States and Israel.”

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There’s no doubt that he deeply believes this, as do many conservatives (including evangelical Christians).

But there’s a strong political element here as well. Among Jewish voters in 2008, Obama won an overwhelming 78 percent, according to exit polls. This year, the GOP is trying hard to win a larger percentage of such voters.

“The Republican Jewish Coalition … has begun spending $6.5 million on an air-and-ground strategy to reach Jewish voters who may view Mr. Obama as unreliable on the question of Israel’s security,” the New York Times reported recently.

When the dynamic Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, was named Romney’s running mate, it was widely noted that neither man had any foreign affairs experience. Neither did Obama when he took office as President, although Vice President Joe Biden had spent more than a decade as Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Democrats and some pundits have expressed concern about the number of neoconservatives now advising Romney, warning that a Romney administration might look a lot like that of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

But James Lindsay, senior vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that “Romney’s foreign policy would likely end up looking a lot like Obama’s no matter how much hand waving and table thumping you witness over the next month.”

“First, foreign policy is hard to change,” he blogged the other day. “Presidents don’t make it solely as they please. They instead confront complex realities abroad and difficult politics at home that greatly narrow their choices.”

“Second, despite the harsh campaign rhetoric and partisan jabs, Obama’s and Romney’s foreign policy views are broadly similar,” Mr. Lindsay writes. “Romney is not Ron Paul. He is an internationalist with a strong pragmatic streak – much like Obama.

“Third, while Romney hasn’t offered many specific foreign policy prescriptions, the ones he has offered look a lot like Obama’s,” he writes. “The governor sees the need to draw down U.S. troops in Afghanistan, favors tougher sanctions to halt Iran’s nuclear program, and offers Syrian rebels kind words but no direct U.S. military support. In other words, current White House policy.”

“The candidates are less stark alternatives than variations on a theme, and a basket of tough foreign policy problems awaits whoever wins on November 6,” Lindsay concludes. “If that turns out to be Mitt Romney, he will quickly discover what Obama already knows: what is easy to promise on the campaign trail turns out to be exceedingly difficult to deliver once in office.”

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