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US Presidential Candidates Offer Similar Foreign Policy Visions

Suzanne Presto

October 26, 2012

As voters in the United States prepare to cast ballots in the presidential election on November 6, people around the globe wonder how the outcome could shape the world.

The presidential candidates offered similar visions of the U.S. role in global affairs during their final debate.

"America remains the one indispensable nation. And the world needs a strong America, and it is stronger now than when I came into office," said President Barack Obama.

"We recognize that there are places of conflict in the world. We want to end those conflicts to the extent humanly possible. But in order to be able to fulfill our role in the world, America must be strong," said Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Defense spending

The U.S. might look more militaristic under Romney, said Daniel Serwer of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

"He has made it clear that projection of strength would be a real priority, and one of the fundamental differences between the two candidates is the degree to which they are willing to continue funding defense build-up," said Serwer.

Romney has pledged to increase defense spending, if elected. But he agreed with Obama on plans to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Eye on Iran

They also agree on the use of sanctions to prevent Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, and they say military strikes remain an option to counter that threat. Both have pledged to support Israel if it is attacked.

Romney has said, if elected, his first foreign trip would be to Israel. He suggested Obama has alienated the Jewish state.

"You went to the Middle East, and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and Iraq. And by the way, you skipped Israel, our closest friend in the region," said Romney.

Obama countered that the debate was on the eve of the largest U.S. and Israeli military exercise in history.

Overall, the candidates offer similar foreign policy proposals, said analyst Serwer.

"Beyond rhetoric, I think the major difference is on this question of arms to the Syrian rebels," said Serwer.

Syria conflict

Syrian security forces and opposition fighters have battled since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in March of 2011. Romney favors providing weapons to the rebels.

"I want to make sure they get armed and they have the arms necessary to defend themselves, but also to remove Assad. But I do not want to see a military involvement on the part of our troops," said Romney.

Obama offers a more cautious response.

"For us to get more entangled militarily in Syria is a serious step, and we have to do so making absolutely certain that we know who we are helping; that we are not putting arms in the hands of folks who eventually could turn them against us or allies in the region," said Obama.

Looking East

Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, will have a personal mission if he is re-elected, said political analyst Robert Guttman.

"He will be looking for his legacy. It may not be [peace in] the Middle East; it may be better relations with China, but it will be something," said Guttman.

China is on Romney's mind. He said he would designate China a "currency manipulator," a label that could lead to sanctions. The Republican candidate's corporate background could influence his leadership, said Guttman.

"He wants to expand American business. I think he would be a president more involved with trade matters, more involved with business," said Guttman.

Analysts say voters are more concerned with domestic issues, such as the economy, than foreign policy plans.

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