‘There’s absolutely nothing in this speech’


We’ve talked a bit today about Mitt Romney’s latest foreign policy speech – the 10th billed by his campaign as a “major” address on international affairs – and if you missed it, the video is now available. (The Romney campaign posted a transcript, which the candidate carefully stuck to via his trusted teleprompter, online.)

If the idea was to capitalize on last week’s debate success, Romney appears to have made a mistake – today’s remarks were intended to make the Republican appear more presidential, but instead, the speech reinforced some of the same doubts that have plagued the former governor for months.

Facing demands for more substance and details from his platform based on vague generalities, Romney delivered … nothing. Indeed, for all of its repeated condemnations of the president, the speech ended up calling for many actions that Obama has already taken. As First Read noted, “[A]lmost every policy Romney will call for – tough sanctions on Iran, withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014, a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians, free trade, vigorously going after the terrorists in Libya – has been pursued by the Obama administration.”

Of course, Romney stressed the need to “change course,” but never got around to saying what that course might be.

Josh Gerstein reported that “foreign policy experts weren’t impressed” with Romney’s vague, confused effort today.

“There’s absolutely nothing in this speech. This is a repackaging of language that has been a staple of Romney’s campaign since he threw his hat in the ring,” said James Lindsay of the Council on Foreign Relations. “If Romney has a foreign policy strategy, he still has not told us what it is. The governor is very fond of saying hope is not a strategy, but that cuts both ways. He didn’t answer two key questions: what he would do differently and why we should expect what he would to work.”

As for the nation’s most recent wars, Romney at least remembered to mention Iraq and Afghanistan – which represented a pleasant change of pace – but had nothing constructive to say on the conflicts.

On the former, this was the only paragraph of any substance:

“In Iraq, the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent Al-Qaeda, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad, and the rising influence of Iran. And yet, America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence.”

Apparently, then, Romney envisioned an indefinite military presence, against the wishes of Iraqi officials, so as to “influence events” to Republicans satisfaction?

As for Afghanistan, this was also the only paragraph of any substance:

“In Afghanistan, I will pursue a real and successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014. President Obama would have you believe that anyone who disagrees with his decisions in Afghanistan is arguing for endless war. But the route to more war – and to potential attacks here at home – is a politically timed retreat that abandons the Afghan people to the same extremists who ravaged their country and used it to launch the attacks of 9/11. I will evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the best advice of our military commanders. And I will affirm that my duty is not to my political prospects, but to the security of the nation.”

Of course, Obama is already pursuing a real and successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.