Middle East foreign policy is Obama’s greatest strength and Romney’s greatest weakness. When I say ‘Obama’s greatest strength,’ I’m referring to voter perception and marketability. For example, get ready to hear Obama take credit for killing Osama bin Laden from the Situation Room about 10,000 times between now and November. Obama even devoted his 2012 State of the Union Address to previewing his foreign policy “wins.”
But with zero military service under his belt and no international foreign policy experience, Romney is coming from behind. Romney also lacks a clear foreign policy agenda (like Rep. Ron Paul has) that appeals to mainstream America and independents. So, I think Romney would need to adjust his approach on Afghanistan if he wants to appeal to mainstream America and defeat Obama’s brag-worthy talking points.
Obama knows that the War in Afghanistan is dreadfully unpopular with Americans and he’s positioning himself to win by continually advertising his plan to pull all combat troops out of Afghanistan by 2014.
Romney has a short window of opportunity. He can keep offering vague critiques of Obama’s Afghan policy by calling it “naïve” and “misguided.” Or, like a self-assured CEO, Romney can offer a concrete plan to drawback troops faster and choke al-Qaida more effectively. Basically, he must offer voters a pull-out plan they can fall in love with—one that’s radically different from Obama’s plan to spend two more years blowing cash and training back-stabbers in Afghanistan.
GOP candidates Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul have both expressed the need for America to pull out of Afghanistan sooner than Obama’s 2014 deadline. Gingrich recently said: “We are not going to fix Afghanistan. It is not possible. These are people who have spent several thousand years hating foreigners. And what we have done by staying is become the new foreigners. …The Karzai government is playing us for fools.”
War-weary independent voters find little worth loving in Romney’s current and ambiguous approach to Afghanistan—which some interpret as staying in Afghanistan longer than Obama or even his fellow Republicans like Gingrich and Paul propose staying.
To even have a chance at beating Paul and Gingrich in the primaries and then Obama in the general election, I think Romney would need to address his major weakness, namely foreign policy. There are three key points Romney would need to communicate:
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