FOR THE PAST seven days, Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, spoke about American foreign policy and traveled the globe, starting with an address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nev., then a trip to Great Britain, Israel and Poland. What has Mr. Romney revealed about his world view? Not nearly enough.
In broad terms, Mr. Romney has sought to distinguish himself from President Obama by suggesting he would be more muscular in projecting U.S. leadership and power, in what he often depicts as a titanic struggle of good vs. evil. But how would Mr. Romney translate his vision into action? So far, his assertions have been superficial, and sometimes maladroit.
On several issues, Mr. Romney sketched out ambitious goals but said nothing about how he would achieve them. In the VFW address, he vowed to avoid deep cuts in the military budget but offered no clue about the trade-offs or difficult decisions required, while blithely skipping over his own party’s role in the nation’s fiscal train wreck. In Jerusalem, he renewed his pledge to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons — “We must not delude ourselves into thinking that containment is an option” — but by what means?
In speaking to the veterans, Mr. Romney claimed that President Obama “sacrificed” missile defense “as a unilateral concession” to Russia when a Bush-era plan was reconfigured, moving it away from Poland and the Czech Republic. But he stopped short of explaining what he would do differently than Mr. Obama, whose alternative $8.4 billion-a-year missile defense plan has hardly comforted Russia. Mr. Romney sounded the klaxon about China’s violations of human rights and other concerns but offered not a single constructive idea for managing the deeply intertwined relationship with Beijing. He was vague on how he would respond to the upheavals of the Arab Spring.
In London, Mr. Romney expressed doubt about Britain’s readiness to host the Olympic Games, a comment that was bush league but not very consequential. More serious was Mr. Romney’s suggestion that “culture” explains the economic disparity between Israelis and Palestinians, and (for good measure) between Mexico and the United States. His comparison left out restrictions on Palestinian trade, workers and goods imposed by Israel over many years, and, more to the point, he reflected an alarmingly simplistic view of complex questions.
Mr. Romney’s trip ended on an unfortunate note in Warsaw. For days, frustrated journalists have not been permitted to question Mr. Romney. When they shouted questions at a wreath-laying ceremony, a testy spokesman rudely told them to get lost. The spokesman apologized, but the questions were left hanging. With fewer than 100 days until the election, we hope Mr. Romney will come up with serious answers on foreign policy.