Final Presidential Debate: 5 Questions Mitt Romney Must Answer on Foreign Policy


As former Governor Mitt Romney prepares for Monday's foreign policy debate, there are a number of critical questions that he should be prepared to address.

For live coverage of the presidential foreign policy debate on Monday, including real-time analysis and coverage, see here.

1. Does Mitt Romney believe that the Arab Spring was a mistake?

Romney has framed the legitimate election of President Morsi in Egypt as some kind of blunder. This opinion seems to be unaffected by President Morsi’s keen interest in developing a positive relationship with the United States and his affirmation of Egypt’s treaty obligations with Israel.

Would Romney have preferred the Arab Spring to not occur? Is he opposed to the largest regional democratic movement in a generation, wishing instead that the region’s 300 million people were kept contained under the thumb of autocrats? And how will those views inform a Romney administration’s policy toward the current transition countries and places like Jordan – that may be nearing a pro-democracy tipping point?

2. Will Mitt Romney call on congressional Republicans to stop blocking key support for partners in the Middle East? 

Republican Congresswoman Kay Granger recently blocked $450 million in aid to Egypt. Republican Senator Rand Paul attempted to pull all foreign assistance from Pakistan, Egypt, and Libya. House Republicans voted to eliminate the $770 million MENA Incentive Fund, the president’s signature economic tool designed to support moderates in the region and make strategic fiscal investments.

Earlier this week, he wrote, “we need to apply a coherent strategy of supporting our partners in the Middle East.” Does he support these specific transition programs, or will he propose others instead?

3. Does Mitt Romney support bombing or invading Iran?

He has often criticized the president’s Iran policy as being too weak, without offering any details on how a Romney administration would approach the situation. The Obama strategy has been to leverage international credibility to isolate Iran under the weight of the strongest multilateral sanctions regime in history, in a multi-year and sustained campaign to force Iran’s hand at the negotiating table. This strategy has resulted in a currency and economic crisis that seems likely to give the United States significant leverage in future negotiations. All of this while also deploying covert and cyber capabilities to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program. What, short of an invasion or military attack – would be the stronger policy that Romney envisions? Does he support military action?

4. Does Mitt Romney’s vision of national security also include robust funding for non-defense diplomacy and development – Especially support for the transition countries in the Middle East and North Africa? 

He’s been very specific about the level of defense spending he thinks is required to secure the United States, pushing the Pentagon’s budget up to 4% of GDP, but has been largely silent on the Foreign Operations budget.

His running mate authored a budget that slashes 11% — or $6 billion from the foreign affairs account. With Romney insisting that he would not tolerate a dollar more of revenue, does he view the development, aid, and diplomacy budget as excessive, a mere luxury that should be sacrificed on the altar of deficit reduction or increased defense spending?

5. Will Mitt Romney outsource our Middle East policy to Israel? 

Romney has recently said that he would place “no daylight between the United States and Israel.” The United States has myriad interests in the Middle East – commercial, strategic, defense, and energy-related. While Israel is a powerful U.S. regional ally, not all of these interests center primarily on Israel. That should be an uncontroversial statement.

Does Romney, however, believe that U.S. regional interests will always be best served by deferring to the preferences of the Israeli government? And if not, on which issues – and in which circumstances – would he support putting “daylight” between himself and Netanyahu.