Dispatches From the Republican National Convention

Even Condi Wasn’t Able To Tell Us What Romney’s Foreign Policy Would Be
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Aug. 29 2012 11:19 PM

Dispatches From the Republican National Convention

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Even after Condi, do we know anything about what a Romney foreign policy would look like?

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Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Photograph by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Condoleezza Rice's turn on stage seemed to be evidence of a speaker in
 search of an argument, as though a production company lined up a star
 actor cast before determining the plot. "Where does America stand?"
 she asked in the midst of a litany of global ills—from sex-trafficking to the Syrian revolution—in which she suggested,
 through some sleight of hand, that the United States had failed to take a 
stand. "My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice," she said. "We 
must not be reluctant to lead, and you can not lead from behind."



But in no instance did she say what a leaderly America would do. For 
all the disruptions in Romney's belief system, there is an unusual
 continuity in his foreign-policy posture: He became a hawk in 2007
 when one facing McCain and Giuliani in a Republican primary in the era 
of Bush would not risk otherwise. Then hawkishness had obvious policy 
ramifications, particularly support for continued commitments in Iraq.



Now that hawkishness is something of an artifact, where the posture
 lives on but without much policy to support the shape—as though the
 only way to challenge a Democrat for the presidency is to run 
rightward on national security. Romney has been left parading into 
rhetorical battle with Russia and China, dubbing the former a “number
 one geopolitical foe" and threatening a trade war with the latter over
 currency issues.



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Rice, the Cold Warrior, didn't seem ready to march in either of those 
parades. She barely mentioned Russia or China, and when she spoke of
 the latter it was in awe of how much more aggressive Beijing has been
 than Washington in negotiating new free-trade agreements. "Sadly we
 are abandoning the playing field of free trade," Rice said, "and it
 will come back to haunt us."



Have we learned anything yet this week about what a Romney foreign 
policy might be, other than occasional suggestions that Obama is a
 vacillating weakling? Is it anything other than critiquing from
 behind?


Sasha

Sasha Issenberg is the author of The Victory Lab about the new science of political campaigns.

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