While the U.S. remains a global power there is relatively little campaigning on foreign policy issues. No doubt Americans are more interested in issues that they see as having an immediate impact on their own lives such as the economy, jobs and health care. Yet foreign policy is also significant. There are still casualties returning from Afghanistan. There are still huge costs of fighting the war on terror. The U.S. spends almost as much on the military to support the U.S. global power presence as the rest of the world as a whole. Another reason why foreign policy issues may not be discussed often is that Romney and Obama do not differ all that much on policies. The two contenders want to illustrate the difference between them and use that difference as a means of attracting votes. Since they have few differences on foreign policy talking about those issues would not differentiate the two in the minds of voters.
An article by Frida Ghitis on CNN
shows that there are considerable similarities between Obama and Romney on foreign policy. Both Romney and Obama are strong supporters of Israel. Romney however is often shown as being more pro-Israel and even criticized for the extent to which he has supported Israel. Yet both court the support of the Israeli lobby in the U.S. and both agree that Israel is a key ally and that Israeli security is a non-negotiable part of U.S. foreign policy. The rhetoric may differ but the substance is on the whole the same. Given that Romney is not in power it is easier for him to up the rhetorical tone on Middle East issues.
Recently in order to highlight his differences with Obama on Israel, Romney said that Jerusalem was Israel's capital. Romney was criticized for his statement. However as the featured video for this article shows Obama said the same thing
and went even further saying:
"Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided."
Even on Iran whereas Romney tries to up the rhetorical heat his proposals are for more economic sanctions. Both he and Obama take the position that Iran cannot be allowed to develop nuclear weapons and that all options are on the table to deal with the problem.
Both Romney and Obama cheer on U.S. greatness although on this issue Obama had to learn his lessons. At first back in 2009 he was less bombastic in his praise of America and American exceptionalism noting that the Greeks probably believe in Greek exceptionalism and the British in British exceptionalism. He learned his lesson.
Romney tried to take advantage of Obama's relative humility and realism but even he after all his rhetorical flourishes about the U.S. as world leader and promoting U.S. moral principles adds that policy must be "tempered by a healthy humility about the extent of our power."
About the war in Afghanistan where Americans are still dying almost nothing is said during the campaign. While Romney has made vague criticisms of Obama on the war he is on record as supporting Obama's withdrawal plan. Actually the withdrawal plan is combined with another long term agreement that will keep the U.S. in Afghanistan until at least 2024. There seems to be no discussion of this. General Allen
has noted that 68,000 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after the summer fighting season is over.
There are differences between Obama and Romney on the defense budget. Obama plans to cut the budget by 500 billion over ten years. Romney would spend more to expand the navy and looks at China as a looming rival. However Obama too sees China as a rival and is adjusting his strategy accordingly to post more troops in Southeast Asia and also naval support. Overall there is basic agreement between Obama and Romney on foreign policy. Obama has even moved closer to a hawkish policy. He has extended the range of drone attacks considerably from the Bush era and is also beginning to challenge Beijing in the South China Sea. Perhaps neither side sees any value in discussing foreign policy when Americans are interested in domestic issues and differences between Obama and Romney are not that great.