TAMPA, Fla. — As Mitt Romney prepares to accept the Republican nomination Thursday, some conservative foreign policy experts say they hope he will use his speech to clarify how he would wield his power as commander in chief.
“Romney’s acceptance speech should broadly define his case for change — the peril a second Obama term would bring, and the positive promise a new Romney administration would bring,” Stephen Yates, a former White House national security official who was an adviser to Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign and heads up DC International Advisory, told TheDC.
“Foreign policy should not loom large in Romney’s case for change, but neither should it be absent. A tough, even if brief, critique of Obama’s stewardship of America’s influence abroad is important. Broad themes, tied to a few specifics would do.”
American Enterprise Institute foreign policy scholar Michael Rubin said that he would like to see Romney speak more clearly about Afghanistan.
“It’s all well and good for Romney to embrace the rhetoric of American exceptionalism, but words are not enough,” he said.
“We are at war in Afghanistan. The one thing Obama has never done is to commit to victory in Afghanistan; it’s about time Romney does, and demonstrate that he means it.”
Foreign Policy Initiative executive director Jamie Fly agrees, saying that Romney ought to discuss difficult foreign policy challenges like Afghanistan — where American sons and daughters continue to fight and die — but he fears that neither Romney nor Obama will do so during the campaign because the solutions to such problems aren’t “politically popular.”
“I’d like to see both candidates talk more about national security, especially issues like Afghanistan and Syria, which I think neither campaign want to address head on because the solution to such problems aren’t politically popular right now,” he said.
On Afghanistan, Fly added that he would like Romney to explain, “Why we are there, why it is important and what the stakes are if we don’t succeed.”
Yates suggested that Romney would likely hone in on one of the current foreign policy hotspots in the news to highlight how a Romney administration would differ from President Obama’s administration on foreign policy.
“Because Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan are currently in the news, I expect Romney may use one or more of these specific situations to illustrate where Obama has gone wrong and how Romney would lead,” he said.
He added that Romney’s challenge is to answer how he would “restore a sense of power and purpose to America’s role in the world, at a time of great uncertainty and constrained resources?”
“That is the theme that allies at home and abroad will listen for on Thursday night and beyond,” he said.
Rubin said Romney ought to be more specific on how he would deal with the Iranian nuclear threat than he has been to date as well.
“As for Iran, Romney may simply want to repeat that the mullah’s nuclear program is unacceptable,” he said.
“But it’s time he goes deeper: The problem is just not Iran’s potential nuclear arsenal but rather the regime that would yield them. Just as the Soviet Union’s demise was the ultimate American interest, so too is the end of the Islamic Republic. It’s time to talk about freedom for the Iranian people. Nothing could bring stability to the region more than Khamenei’s regime joining the dustbin of history.”
But no matter what Romney says Thursday night, for some conservatives who may be skeptical of Romney’s foreign policy for a variety of reasons, and perhaps even from a variety of perspectives, a speech won’t overcome those concerns, Yates argued.
“For conservatives with doubts or concerns about Romney and the potential direction a Romney administration may go on policy — foreign and domestic — there is no magical formulation of words Romney could utter to allay those concerns,” he said.
“Only when we know who he will hire, how he will use them, and what actions he will take to shape developments abroad will we have any sense for what kind of a global and national leader Romney seeks to be.”