Diplomat Romney: He calls for a bigger U.S. role in the Middle East
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Since Republican nominee Mitt Romney had not yet set out his views on foreign policy, his speech Monday was much awaited and long overdue.
Given that the policy area is one of interest and difference between the presidential candidates, that there is concern over the quality of counsel Mr. Romney is receiving on it and that the Oct. 16 and 22 debates will include discussion of foreign affairs, it was essential that he declare himself on the subject sooner rather than later.
The speech was made in front of uniformed cadets at Virginia Military Institute, a state-supported college whose students played an important role on the side of the Confederacy in the Civil War. Mr. Romney also made four references to Gen. George C. Marshall, who served brilliantly in World War II and as secretary of State and Defense, but also played an important role in maintaining segregation in the armed forces as Army chief of staff.
Mr. Romney stated his vision for America in a "freer, more prosperous and more peaceful world." His regional focus was largely on the Middle East, where he said it was time to change course, providing future support to friends "who share our values," by which he meant Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states. The latter are, of course, all monarchies.
He correctly rapped President Barack Obama for not pursuing the Middle East negotiations and expressed support for the two-state Israeli-Palestinian settlement that President George W. Bush and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had advocated.
He said the killing of U.S. diplomats in Libya was "not an isolated incident" and tried to link it, without evidence, to the 9/11 attacks of 2001. That may be his interpretation of what occurred, but the U.S. investigation of the Benghazi incident is still under way, making Mr. Romney's early analysis of it fishing in troubled waters.
He repeated the usual Republican criticism of Democratic administrations for having "arbitrarily and deeply" cut military spending, pledging to build 15 new ships a year for the Navy. He did not say how he would square that with attacking what he called the nation's "unsustainable debt."
The speech in general left room for fruitful discussion in the upcoming debates.
First Published October 10, 2012 12:00 am