In his speech today at the Virginia Military Institute, Mitt Romney skewered President Obama for his foreign policy leadership but failed to outline significantly different policy positions. You can read a full transcript of the speech here.
On Syria, he said "The President has failed to lead," noting that "30,000 men, women and children have been massacred." In trying to distinguish his position, he vowed that he "will work with our partners to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad's tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets." In Afghanistan, he said "I will pursue a real and successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014." In Iran, he said "I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have."
Of course, as Wired's Spencer Ackerman has noted, these positions are strikingly similar to Obama's. For instance, new sanctions on Iran are the corner-stone of Obama's policy in the country. Obama also supports a 2014 withdrawal date from Afghanistan and also supports other countries arming Syrian rebels. Neither candidate is supporting direct arming of Syrian rebels.
But politics being politics, candidates need to do their best to draw "sharp" contrasts—something the Obama campaign is doing as well.
In the run-up to today's speech, the Obama campaign launched "pre-emptive strike" consisting of a new TV ad and a memo by two former Obama national security advisers, Michele Flournoy and Colin Kahl, who say Romney's positions are way outside the mainstream “and often to the right of even George W. Bush.” They said his advisers' "with-us-or-against-us approach" has created "“some of the worst foreign policy failures in American history, including the Iraq War." Aboard Air Force One, traveling press secretary Jen Psaki was even fiercer on Sunday. "We're not going to be lectured by someone who has been an unmitigated disaster on foreign policy every time he's dipped his toe in the foreign policy waters," Psaki said. "The only person who has offended Europe more is probably Chevy Chase." In short, take the fiery rhetoric surrounding today's speech with a grain of salt.