Romney on 2014

A fortnightly column on the high politics of the Af-Pak region, the fulcrum of global power play in India's neighbourhood

Romney on 2014

In his much awaited speech on foreign policy delivered at a military institute on Monday, Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger to incumbent Barack Obama in the US presidential election, had very little to say on the US strategy towards Afghanistan. The focus of the speech was almost entirely on the Middle East.

Romney's team has apparently bet that the Middle East is the chink in Obama's foreign policy armour that must be attacked. Romney's main objective was to reverse the widespread perception in the United States that Obama has been an effective commander-in-chief.

Until now, the main focus of Romney's campaign has been on the economy, the weakest point of Obama's record. Romney had calculated that there was little traction in making foreign policy a debating point in this election. That approach has now been reversed.

The controversy over the killing of the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, in Benghazi last month and the Obama administration's vacillations in responding to the Arab Spring have provided the context for Romney's fusillade against Obama's leadership on the foreign policy front.

It is difficult to quibble with Obama on Af-Pak issues when he flaunts his success in locating and executing Osama bin Ladin and his relentless drone attacks on the sanctuaries in Pakistan.

In the few words that he devoted to Afghanistan, where the US military involvement has lasted more than a decade, Romney was careful not to challenge the main lines of Obama's strategy while highlighting a few differences.

For example, Romney has not rejected Obama's deadline of 2014 to end America's active combat role in Afghanistan. While claiming that he is not for an "endless war" in Afghanistan, Romney suggested Obama's policy has been guided by domestic political considerations.

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