Thanks to Romney’s speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nev., on Tuesday, we now have the broad outlines of how his foreign policy would differ from Obama’s. There would be a break, the Republican candidate indicated, from policies that have “exposed the military to cuts that no one can justify, compromised our national security secrets and, in dealings with other nations, given trust where it is not earned, insult where it is not deserved and apology where it is not due.”
Romney is an old-fashioned, unstylish man whose views hark back to a time when America was confident in itself and less worried about the judgments of other nations. We have grown anxious in the past decade or so, seeing our country in the mirror held up beyond our shores. There is a yearning for that self-confidence. And Romney promises to call back those older, simpler American verities.
Just as Obama sought to distance himself from Bush’s legacy, Romney’s overseas itinerary is meant to draw a contrast with the current president. Israel, Poland and Britain are resolutely pro-American societies, choices that play it safe politically and suggest that a Romney presidency would as well.
The “special relationship” with Britain calls for no commentary; this is the Anglo-Saxon world, as it was once unapologetically called. Campaigns don’t always follow the script, of course. Romney’s gaffe Wednesday about potential troubles at the London Olympics is a reminder that, even when dealing with close allies, a few ill-chosen words can ruffle feathers.
Israel is of the West but not in it, a besieged democracy. Obama has not visited there since his 2008 trip, and Israelis have wondered about his fidelity to their country.
Poland, too, imparts meaning: Its people have paid dearly for their liberty, daring to defy the Soviet Union and casting their fate with the West. Poland still stands sentry against Russia. And Romney’s previous characterization of Russia as the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe” is music to Polish ears.
And Poland has had its own disappointment with Obama: Bush proposed a missile-defense system to be based in Poland and the Czech Republic. Obama has reconfigured it, proposing a system more acceptable to Russia and, he contends, more effective in warding off potential missile attacks from Iran and North Korea.