That’s the case despite the fact that the country has been at war for more than a decade and the president is on the defensive over an attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Libya.
National security issues long have favored Republican presidential candidates. For most of Obama’s presidency, his approval ratings on the issue have trumped those he receives on the economy. Mitt Romney has his differences with Obama but hasn’t gained politically by talking about them.
Neither candidate spends much time on the trail discussing national security. The president reminds audiences that he ended the Iraq war and ordered the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. Romney characterizes Obama as a weak leader who has lowered the United States’ profile worldwide. Lately, he has tried to seize on the attack in Libya to press his case.
For the majority of Americans, national security and foreign policy are mostly afterthoughts as they weigh their choices this fall. But as with domestic policy, the two candidates project distinctly different visions. Obama has adopted a collaborative, we’re-all-in-this-together approach to world affairs; Romney says he wants to restore American preeminence.
— Dan Balz
Here are Obama and Romney’s positions on foreign policy, broken down by subject:
Obama has overseen the most severe economic sanctions in Iran’s history in his administration’s efforts to prevent the Islamic republic from developing a nuclear weapon. He has said he would take “no options off the table” to achieve that goal, an implicit threat of military action. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.
Obama has urged Israel — which considers a nuclear-armed Iran a threat to its existence — not to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities unilaterally, insisting that there is still time for a diplomatic solution to the standoff. His approach has drawn criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called on Obama to publicly define “red lines” that would trigger an attack. Obama has resisted those entreaties and repeated his commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
The president’s position is based on a belief that the sanctions against Iran will force the country to accept a compromise to curb its nuclear activities. Several rounds of sanctions have squeezed Iran’s economy, particularly the all-important oil sector, and greatly undercut the value of its currency. The most severe measures took effect this past summer.
International nuclear talks with Iran are stalled. No firm dates for new negotiations have been set, and analysts say no breakthrough is likely until after the November election.