Friday, May 4, 2012

Mitt Romney on Foreign Policy

Now that Newt Gingrich has officially dropped out of the race, only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul remain. Paul up to this point has only gotten about 80-90 delegates depending on who's counting, while Romney has some 840. For all that I dislike Mitt Romney, the Republican nomination is now pretty much settled.

Now that we're entering the general election phase of the campaign, with Romney as the Republican standard-bearer, I think it would be useful to revisit the positions he took during the primary debates. My vote, at this point, is far from certain, and just as I used this blog to decide my vote in the primary, I will also be using it to decide my vote in the general election. While it's possible some or all of Romney's positions in the primary will be Etch-a-Sketched away soon, I think this is a good enough place to start.

My original coverage of the debates can be found under the debate tag and the 2012 primaries tag. Romney attended most of the debates, with the exception of the first, the Thanksgiving Family Forum and of course the one-on-one Gingrich debates with Cain and Huntsman. All my coverage of Mitt Romney himself, which is mostly just the debates so far, can be found under the Mitt Romney tag.

Over the 19 debates, Romney took lots of positions on lots of different issues, so I'm splitting this up into multiple entries. This one covers foreign policy, including immigration, trade, defense and policies toward some specific countries and regions.


In the 3rd debate, he said, "We are a nation of immigrants. We love legal immigration." In the 8th debate, he said, "I think every single person here loves legal immigration." But only twice in 19 debates did he talk about encouraging legal immigration, once in the 3rd debate and later in the 11th, both in the context of high-skilled immigrants. For the most part, when Romney talks about immigration, he talks about discouraging illegal immigration. Unfortunately, discouraging illegal immigration by making legal immigration easier doesn't seem to have occurred to him. He focuses entirely on securing the border with a fence and lots of federal agents, and making it harder to hire illegal immigrants.

As for illegal immigrants who are already here, he says in the 19th debate, "Our problem is 11 million people getting jobs that many Americans, legal immigrants, would like to have." In early debates he held that any kind of path to legality, never mind citizenship, amounts to amnesty; later, in the 18th debate, he supported allowing illegal immigrant children to gain citizenship through military service. He would encourage self-deportation by requiring immigrants to present legal-status cards to be hired (and, since the absence of such a card would imply you're an illegal immigrant, the requirement for such a card would also necessarily extend to citizens). He mentions this card multiple times, in the 13th, 17th, 18th and 19th debates.


Mitt's trade policy leaves a lot to be desired. In the 3rd debate, he called our trade partners our "opponents," and I wasn't the only one to notice. In the 5th and later debates, he substituted "the other guys" for "opponents," but the sentiment still clearly remained. His primary trade policy is to "crack down on cheaters like China," which he mentioned, often with those exact words, in the 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 14th, 16th, 17th and 19th debates.

He did talk about expanding trade, but far less often than cracking down on China, and always in the context of "open[ing] up markets for our goods," as he said in the 14th debate. He seems to hold a typical mercantilist philosophy, where exports are good but imports are bad. Anything China or other countries do to encourage American imports should be punished, and the only goal of free trade agreements is to encourage American exports.


He opposes all cuts to defense spending, preferring cuts to entitlements and Obamacare. In fact, he wants to increase military spending, in particular by building more ships for the Navy (which he mentioned in the 13th, 18th and 20th debates) and recruiting an extra 100,000 troops (which he mentioned only once, in the 13th debate).

Specific Countries/Regions

China: Most of Romney's policy towards China focuses on trade, particularly "cracking down" on them for cheating. He promised in the 7th debate to issue an executive order on "day one" labelling China a currency manipulator, and to initiate action against China at the WTO.

Afghanistan: His Afghanistan policy is most charitably described as continually evolving. In the 2nd and 3rd debates, he preferred a timetable for withdrawal established by the generals in Afghanistan. In the 10th, he was fine with Obama's 2014 timetable for the general withdrawal, but not the September 2012 withdrawal of the surge troops. In the 11th, he said he wanted to keep the surge troops in Afghanistan until December 2012, and keep "ten thousand or so" troops in Afghanistan after 2014. In the 14th debate, he said he didn't yet have enough information to say when he would withdraw the troops from Afghanistan.

Iran: He is absolutely opposed to Iran getting nuclear weapons, going so far as to say in the 20th debate that re-electing Obama would lead to Iranian nukes being used against Americans, and that a Romney Presidency was the only way to prevent that. He said he would "of course" go to war "if all else fails" (in the 10th debate) and that Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz would "of course" be an act of war (in the 18th debate). He also wanted "crippling sanctions" against Iran in the 10th and 11th debates, and in the 14th criticized Obama for not supporting the Iranian protestors in 2009.

Iraq: Before going back into Iraq, he would want to "require significant, dramatic American interests" to be at stake, and said he would outline a specific endgame in terms of what would qualify as success.

Syria: In the 10th debate, he said, "Of course, it's time for the Assad dictatorship to end," but in the 11th said, "This is not the time for a no-fly zone over Syria."

Israel and Palestine: In the 19th debate, responding to a question from a self-identified Palestinian-American Republican, Romney said, "The best way to have peace in the Middle East is not for us to vacillate and to appease, but is to say, we stand with our friend Israel. We are committed to a Jewish state in Israel. We will not have an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally, Israel."

Europe: In the 7th, 9th and 16th debates, he opposed a direct bailout to Europe, saying they are big enough to solve their own problems. He would, however, be willing to provide assistance through the IMF and World Bank, and hinted he would bail out American companies affected by Europe's problems.

Canada: In 19 debates, Romney mentioned our largest trading partner and the country with which we share the world's largest land border once, and even that was indirectly through his support for the Keystone XL pipeline in the 17th debate.


  1. " going so far as to say in the 20th debate that re-electing Obama would lead to Iranian nukes being used against Americans, and that a Romney Presidency was the only way to prevent that"

    Sigh. I'm afraid the hyperbole of the next six months will make me dislike both men even more than I already do.

  2. On that note, I also plan to do a similar, obviously smaller, series for Gary Johnson, who has now officially clinched the nomination for the Libertarian Party. ;)