Mitt Romney’s foreign policy speech today at the Virginia Military Institute will surely spawn criticism that he is merely parroting the same old Republican talking points on foreign policy.
But a closer look reveals how Romney is carefully distancing himself from both Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
Romney’s criticism of Obama boils down to the assumption that presenting a weak image abroad invites war. In short, his message today was ‘peace-through-strength’ — with an equal emphasis on both parts of the equation.
For example, early in the speech, Romney notes that, “General Marshall once said, ‘The only way human beings can win a war is to prevent it.’ Those words were true in his time—and they still echo in ours.” Later, regarding defense cuts, he stressed that, “The first purpose of a strong military is to prevent war.” (Emphasis mine.)
If Romney hopes to contrast his foreign policy philosophy with Obama’s, he must also quell worries that his administration would be a retread of what some perceive as a bellicose Bush-era.
But Romney’s rhetoric might be too subtle to accomplish this substantial branding task. (Yes, preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability may lead to a more peaceful world — but Romney is asking voters to imagine something that might happen in the future, while forgetting that the last Republican president presided over two wars.)
Still, lines don’t end up in major foreign policy speeches by accident. Expect Romney to return to this theme. The question is: Will it work?