In presidential debate, President Obama is no dove, and Mitt Romney is no hawk (+video)
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.”
When it comes to Iran, Obama started off trying to engage the mullahs, but quickly toughened his policy to encompass a tough sanctions regime and reported covert and cyber campaigns to slow the nuclear program. Romney has been critical of Obama’s approach and described the leadership in Tehran as “unalloyed evil," but his stated policy on Iran is not noticeably different.
He may be more likely than Obama to authorize a military strike to interrupt the nuclear program. Then again, the riskiness of that option stayed George W. Bush’s hand – and Romney is a more cautious politician than Mr. Bush.