It is harder to make judgments about Romney’s foreign policies. His few interventions on the topic have not been impressive. If we believe his rhetoric, then should he be elected, the foreign policy right-wing is back in business. Romney has criticized Obama for being a serial apologizer, promised a more muscular approach toward America’s adversaries, and vowed to usher in a new American Century.
But Romney’s heart doesn’t seem to be in it. His character and experiences indicate that he would more likely be a careful, analytical foreign policy-maker, who bases his decisions on expert advice and facts rather than intuition.
Like Obama, Romney is a cautious, data-driven figure. He thinks with his head, not his gut. His proclivity for PowerPoint, like Obama’s penchant for the TelePrompter, speaks to a desire for order and control.
There are many examples of foreign-policy convergence between the candidates. For example, Obama seems to no longer believe that coalition forces should (or even can) bring stability to Afghanistan. And he plans to withdraw nearly all troops by the end of 2014. Romney is more hawkish in tone, but the substance of his policy on Afghanistan is hardly different, and he has had his own timetable for withdrawal (though he now stands behind 2014), even if it contains more caveats.
In Asia, Obama seeks to cooperate with Beijing, but he also intends to renew America’s presence in the region and maintain a balance of forces at a time when there is significant uncertainty about China’s future behavior.
Romney’s rhetoric on China has been several notches tougher, but he has focused largely on economic matters. It is hard to imagine him buying into a "clash of civilizations" with China, or muscling up to Beijing in a provocative manner. A continuation of the Obama approach seems more likely. Indeed, in Boca Raton it was Romney who was the panda-hugger, rejecting Obama’s characterization of China as an “adversary.”