- By Uri Friedman
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.
Mitt Romney may not have unveiled many new policy proposals in his foreign-policy address on Monday, but he did roll out a number of sound bites, including "hope is not a strategy." And one line in particular sounded quite familiar:
There is a longing for American leadership in the Middle East-and it is not unique to that region. It is broadly felt by America’s friends and allies in other parts of the world as well- in Europe, where Putin’s Russia casts a long shadow over young democracies, and where our oldest allies have been told we are "pivoting" away from them … in Asia and across the Pacific, where China’s recent assertiveness is sending chills through the region … and here in our own hemisphere, where our neighbors in Latin America want to resist the failed ideology of Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers and deepen ties with the United States on trade, energy, and security. But in all of these places, just as in the Middle East, the question is asked: "Where does America stand?"
In her well-received Republican convention speech, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the question "Where does America stand?" a central theme of her remarks:
And we have seen once again that the desire for freedom is universal – as men and women in the Middle East demand it. Yet, the promise of the Arab Spring is engulfed in uncertainty; internal strife and hostile neighbors are challenging the fragile democracy in Iraq; dictators in Iran and Syria butcher their own people and threaten the security of the region; China and Russia prevent a response; and all wonder, "Where does America stand?"
Indeed that is the question of the moment- "Where does America stand?" When our friends and our foes, alike, do not know the answer to that question – clearly and unambiguously – the world is a chaotic and dangerous place. The U.S. has since the end of World War II had an answer – we stand for free peoples and free markets, we are willing to support and defend them – we will sustain a balance of power that favors freedom.
Romney continued to echo Rice in his subsequent statements, acknowledging that Americans have a touch of leadership fatigue but warning that America’s enemies would eagerly fill the void if the United States leads "from behind" or fails to lead at all:
I know many Americans are asking a different question: "Why us?" I know many Americans are asking whether our country today-with our ailing economy, and our massive debt, and after 11 years at war-is still capable of leading.
I believe that if America does not lead, others will-others who do not share our interests and our values-and the world will grow darker, for our friends and for us. America’s security and the cause of freedom cannot afford four more years like the last four years. I am running for President because I believe the leader of the free world has a duty, to our citizens, and to our friends everywhere, to use America’s great influence-wisely, with solemnity and without false pride, but also firmly and actively-to shape events in ways that secure our interests, further our values, prevent conflict, and make the world better-not perfect, but better.
And I know too that there is weariness – a sense that we have carried these burdens long enough. But if we are not inspired to lead again, one of two things will happen – no one will lead and that will foster chaos — or others who do not share our values will fill the vacuum. My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead – and one cannot lead from behind.
I’ve noted before that Rice’s record differs sharply from Romney’s campaign rhetoric on issues such as foreign aid, U.S.-Russian relations, North Korea’s nuclear program, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But when it comes to a sweeping, high-level critique of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, Romney apparently believes that Rice got it just right.