After the US media declared him the winner of the first presidential debate Mitt Romney used a speech in Virginia to elaborate his foreign policy vision on Monday.

"He is obviously trying to move to the centre of politics at the same, because he has failed to play the right in the primaries ... and at the same time he has to differentiate himself from President Obama and walk with swagger around the world - whatever that means - and it's not working."

- Shibley Telhami, a professor at the University of Maryland

The Republican nominee was keen to attack Barack Obama, the US president, for what he called a lack of leadership in the Middle East.

He promised to increase military spending and highlighted what he said was the 'shadow' that Vladimir Putin's Russia is casting over Europe.

Romney also used assertive language on Syria, saying he would help organise and arm the opposition to defeat the government's forces.

But much of the ground covered was familiar to observers of Obama's foreign policy. Romney's proposal for a mix of threats and sanctions against Iran did not sound dissimilar to the approach of the Obama administration.

On Afghanistan he said he would oversee a transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014, which is Obama's policy.

Perhaps most awkwardly he affirmed the United States' role as an arbiter between Israel and the Palestinians, commited to the goal of a Palestinian state. But this was in marked contrast to his comments caught on a secret video when he said the Palestinians were not interested in peace.

"Finally, I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel. On this vital issue, the President has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew."

"I think Mitt Romney has taken the Bush-Cheney-Neocon view of the world to it high-water mark ... if you extrapolate his view of the world ... it shows a total ignorance of why we are engaged in conflicts around the world ... so we have this huge symptom of arrogance that will lead the United States to ruination."

- Bruce Fein, Ron Paul presidential campaign advisor

Nonetheless, Romney insisted that his vision of an assertive and muscular foreign policy did differ sharply from that of President Obama.

He said: "There is a longing for American leadership in the Middle East - and it is not unique to that region. It is broadly felt by America's friends and allies in other parts of the world as well - in Europe, where Putin's Russia casts a long shadow over young democracies, and where our oldest allies have been told we are "pivoting" away from them … in Asia and across the Pacific, where China's recent assertiveness is sending chills through the region … and here in our own hemisphere, where our neighbors in Latin America want to resist the failed ideology of Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers and deepen ties with the United States on trade, energy, and security. But in all of these places, just as in the Middle East, the question is asked: 'Where does America stand?"

So does Mitt Romney have a distinct foreign policy vision and how does it differ from President Obama's?

To discuss this on Inside Story US 2012, presenter Shihab Rattansi speaks to Shibley Telhami, a professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland, he has advised the US delegation to the UN on Middle East policy; David Swanson, a progressive writer who acted as press secretary to the Democrat Dennis Kucinich when he ran for the presidency in 2004; and Bruce Fein, a former senior foreign policy advisor to the Ron Paul presidential campaign.


  • Obama camp called Romney's speech "heated rhetoric", "chest-thumping"
  • Obama spokeswoman slammed Romney for being short on details
  • Obama spokeswoman: What exactly is Romney's plan and proposal?
  • Obama camp defended the president's handling of war with Iraq
  • Spokeswoman: Obama is most proud of withdrawal of US troops in Iraq
  • White House spokesman Jay Carney defended US-Israel relationship
  • Carney: Israel's leaders said US military cooperation is unprecedented
  • Critics argue that Romney's speech is very similar to Obama's approach
  • Romney's vow to stop Iran's nuclear programme is in line with Obama's
  • Obama authorised non-lethal aid to Syria, similar to what Romney urged
  • Critics argue Romney's policy for Afghanistan is the same as Obama's

Source: Al Jazeera