Read clips, of course, about Mitt Romney's stiff-backed challenge to President Obama on Iran. The former Massachusetts governor and 2004 presidential candidate wants "withering" sanctions to be levied on Iran. But his speech, delivered today to an AIPAC forum in San Diego, is worth reading in its entirety. It's a distillation of how conservatives see Obama's approach to foreign policy. Since Romney may well run against Obama in 2012, it's a useful guide to his thinking. RomneyAIPAC.doc
Unlike Bush, Romney has few ties to the conservative foreign policy establishment. His father wasn't a favorite of Saudi princes or of the Chinese leadership. His world is unipolar: America is the single major force for good -- and there are numerous threats and many potential rivals. Romney's America remains the beacon of hope. He mocks Obama as wanting "[a] world in which America is more attuned to the approbation of the United Nations than to its ally Israel is a world in peril."
If it sounds like we've had this debate before -- in 2008, in the midterms of 2006, in 2004 -- we have. In 2008, Obama won it. In 2012, conservative strategists are betting -- hoping -- that public opinion swings back into the comfortable nest of clarity, certainty and strength projection. ("Once an outstretched hand is met with a clenched fist, it becomes a symbol of weakness and impotence," Romney says.)
"My concern extends to our entire foreign policy. If the U.S. Government engages tyrannies and autocracies -- countries like Iran and North Korea, Syria and Russia, Sudan and Zimbabwe -- based on the conviction that we are dealing with common interests more than competing interests, it will not end well."
How would Romney engage Russia? He wouldn't. Indeed, he implies that China and Russia threaten "liberty and peace."
"Russia is returning to its authoritarian ways, fueled by its energy stranglehold on Europe. China has married the power of free enterprise with the oppression of Communist rule," he said.
"When Poland and the Czech Republic are humiliated by us, they lose confidence in America's support for them, and they may decide that they must incline more toward Russia," he said of the decision to change gears on missile defense in Europe.
"If our friends in Latin America like Colombia become convinced that we are turning our back on them, they may feel compelled to become more accommodative to Hugo Chavez."
"If Japan believes the United States is weakening its commitment in the Pacific, it may distance itself from America and draw closer to China."
He urges a tougher line against the Arab world.
Consider how little we ask of the Arab world. Why is it that only Egypt and Jordan have peace agreements with Israel? What about Saudi Arabia? The Saudi government will not even sit in the same room as the Israelis, let alone normalize relations or work towards a realistic peace agreement. In 2007, at the height of the Olmert-Abbas peace track, the Saudis were demanding that more U.S. companies comply with their boycott of Israel."
One note here: presidential candidates have the luxury of talking tough about conventional American rivals. When they become presidents, they inevitably soften their voices. George W. Bush was humble during the campaign, humble before 9/11, aggressive after 9/11 and conciliatory from 2006 onward.
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Marc Ambinder is a senior fellow at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.