There’s no doubt that Romney and Obama differ. It’s safe to say that if Romney were president, we would have strongly supported the Green Movement uprising in Iran, we would not have tried to get a Israel-Palestinian peace deal by attacking settlements, we would have led from the front in Libya, and we would have devoted more effort to preserving the gains of our troops in Iraq. I also suspect Romney would be arming insurgents in Syria, would have immediately backed the aspirations of the Arab Spring, and pushed for more trade agreements.
We should give Romney credit for vision. At VMI, he took on the isolationism — a real threat, and from within his own party. He rejected those who ask “Why us?” and answered, “I believe if America does not lead, others will — others who do not share our interests and our values — and the world will grow darker, for our friends and for us.”
I like all that, but I also would want to ask Romney his positions on tougher questions, such as these:
• Women have made substantial gains in Afghanistan over the past decade; the number of girls in school has risen from 5,000 to 2.5 million. But if a deal is struck with the Taliban, those gains could easily be lost. Is it a priority for the U.S. to secure the liberty and safety of Afghan women? How?
• Hugo Chávez has just won reelection in Venezuela, and his brand of klepto-socialism has won adherents throughout Latin America. Is there a U.S. interest in helping the opposition there? How?
• Azerbaijan, a country of 10 million with substantial energy resources on the Caspian Sea, joined the coalition against Saddam Hussein in 2003, allows U.S. overflights from Afghanistan and, unlike others in the region, stands up to Russia, “our No. 1 geopolitical foe,” as you have said. Azerbaijan also looks like an unappreciated ally. What can we do, specifically, to support friends like this in Asia, Africa and Latin America?
• In your speech to the Clinton Global Initiative last month, you spoke of “the goodness and the bigness of the American heart.” The best example is the multibillion-dollar program, inaugurated under former President George W. Bush, that has saved millions from dying of AIDS in Africa. We have won friends, added to our security and done the right and moral thing. But at a time of huge deficits, will you make a commitment to serious global health and development projects? How much are you willing to spend, and how?
• Some are advocating a congressional resolution now that would authorize the president, at his discretion, to use force to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. This approach could be a way of preventing a miscalculation by both the Israelis and the Iranians. Do you support it?
• Obama said Sept. 13 that he does not consider Egypt an ally. Do you agree? Should we use our aid to Egypt as leverage to pressure the country’s new president to adopt more U.S.-friendly policies? What are those policies?
Romney can certainly say that, before answering, he requires facts that only a president can have. Still, if he wants to be that president, he needs to take some chances by being explicit. At long last in this campaign, the candidates are beginning to address foreign policy in an intelligent way. Let’s have more of that.
Glassman, former under secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, is executive director of the George W. Bush Institute.