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On Friday, Mitt Romney will attack President Obama on foreign policy from the right. On Monday, rival Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman will attack the president from the left. Given that during Obama's administration, Osama bin Laden and many other prominent al Qaeda leaders have been killed, Democrats are, for the first election cycle in memory, actually relishing a fight over foreign policy. The debate that's emerging is one of the most interesting things about the 2012 race, even if racist rocks and vaccine rumors grab more attention most of the time.
Romney's recently-announced foreign policy team is packed with veterans of George W. Bush's administration, Agence France-Press
reports, including Dan Senor, spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority that ruled Iraq after the invasion; Meghan O'Sullivan, Bush's deputy national security adviser on Iraq and Afghanistan; former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff; Michael Hayden, who headed the C.I.A. during Bush's warrantless wiretapping program. Those advisers -- plus the tone of his speech -- show a pushback from Obama's fairly minor course correction
following the Bush administration.
On Friday, Romney will call for this to be "an American Century" in his speech at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. He'll take shots at Obama's supposed "Apology Tour" -- the view on the right that Obama has gone abroad and begged for forgiveness for American foreign policy mistakes. Politico's Mike Allen
posts excerpts of Romney's planned remarks, which include the promise, "I will never, ever apologize for America ... This is America's moment. We should embrace the challenge, not shrink from it, not crawl into an isolationist shell, not wave the white flag of surrender, nor give in to those who assert America's moment has passed." Romney's top priorities in his first 100 days in office, he'll say, include rebuilding the Navy, enhancing "Our Deterrent Against Iran," building a missile defense system, and getting a full review of the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Days later, Jon Huntsman
, who's starting to see a teeny bit of momentum in New Hampshire polls, will give his own, very different, foreign policy speech in that state, suggesting the U.S. military is trying to do way too much. Writing in Politico, Huntsman promises his "foreign policy vision and priorities... will differ from the conventional thinking you will hear from some of my fellow Republican candidates," including Romney.
Simply advocating for more ships, more troops and more weapons isn't a viable foreign policy. We need more agility, more intelligence and more economic engagement with the world.
It's time to erase the old map. End nation-building, engage our allies and fix our economic core. This is how we will fight the enemy we have -- and renew American exceptionalism.
We must transform our military to reflect the asymmetric threats we face. We are still saddled with a top-heavy, post-Cold War infrastructure. It needs to be rethought and reduced. To use corporate terminology, it needs to be right-sized. ... The Cold War is over.
Politico's Alexander Burns
reports that unlike a debate over the economy, a debate over wars and terrorism is something Democrats look forward to. A Democratic strategist emails him:
What will [Romney] say against killing bin Laden, taking out more Al Qaeda leadership in two years than had been taken out since September 11, 2001, ending combat operations in Iraq, transitioning to an Afghan security force lead and drawing down our troops there, standing up for Israel at the UN, strengthening our alliances, over throwing Ghaddafi and fostering Democracy movements in the Middle East. Romney's criticisms of that stellar record are likely to come off petty and nothing more than politically motivated - as most of his prior critiques and postions have been. ...
Though foreign policy hasn't drawn as many questions during the Republican debates, when the candidates do talk about it, it's fascinating. Rick Santorum attacks Romney from the right -- especially for being a "Johnny-come-lately" on support of Israel. Meanwhile, dueling boos and cheers fill the auditorium when Ron Paul says American foreign policy inspired al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden to attack us, and that if we want to be safer, we should stop occupying Arab countries. The next debate is October 11; after these speeches, the candidates will have a lot to talk about.
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is the former politics editor for The Wire