Romney: 'We can't kill our way out of this mess' in the Middle East

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney opened Monday night's debate by calling for a measured U.S. policy in the Middle East.

“We can't kill our way out of this mess,” Romney said. “We don't want another Iraq, we don't want another Afghanistan.”

Romney also ruled out military action in Syria including no-fly zones prompting President Obama to say the Republican candidate would do the same things he has. “And that's because we're doing exactly what we should be doing.”

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The comments highlighted the relative similarities between Obama’s and Romney’s policies with those countries, while distinguishing Romney from the previous Republican administration of George W. Bush, who sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Though Romney didn't mention the drone attacks that have been a big part of Obama's counter-terrorism program, it also seemed to be a nod to those attacks, as well as the killing of Osama bin Laden. 

Later in the debate, Romney said he supported Obama's use of drones, but criticized the president's overall policy, arguing it needed to be more comprehensive to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon and to put al Qaeda on the run.

Romney criticized Obama for presiding during a time in which he said extremism was growing in the world while American influence was scaling back.

“We must have a comprehensive strategy to help reject this kind of extremism,” Romney said, pointing out to recent progress by radical Islamists in Libya, Mali and other countries.

He cited work by a panel of experts at the United Nations to make the case for continued foreign aid, more trade and efforts to empower women in the Middle East.