Monday, September 3, 2012

Foreign policy, the next four years

Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney is talking much about foreign policy these days. This is understandable given the state of the economy. Still, it's important to understand the candidate's foreign policy positions, as back burner issues have an uncanny habit of turning into crises when we're not looking.

Jackson Diehl has put together a helpful summary of what he believes are "big and bright" differences between Obama and Romney on matters abroad. Here are the bullet points:

  • Russia: Obama is committed to striking a deal with Putin to reduce nuclear stockpiles and intends to offer compromises on NATO missile defense to bring this about. Romney intends to do the opposite, holding nuclear capabilities where they are and increasing missile defense.
  • Afghanistan: Both candidates support plans to withdraw forces by the end of 2014. However, Obama is likely to order a cut in 2013, while Romney will follow the advice of U.S. generals to maintain troop levels through the end of next year.
  • Syria: Obama rejects proposals to set up safe zones for civilians or supply weapons to the rebels. Romney is in favor of arming the rebels.
  • Iran: Obama will likely use force only after the Iranians start building a bomb. Romney will likely act if Iran gets close to obtaining all the materials for a bomb.
  • Israel-Palestine: Obama remains eager for the establishment of a Palestinian state, despite failing in his first-term attempts. Look for him to try again in a second term. Romney is not likely to push on this front.
With these having been documented as the things to watch, look for the real crisis to emerge in North Korea, China, or Latin America.

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