October 23 2012
This commentary appeared on NYTimes.com on October 23, 2012.
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama had some sharp rhetorical exchanges, but on substance there were few discernible differences. If Mr. Obama was expecting Mr. Romney to distinguish himself by supporting military policies that would be unpopular with Americans (whether in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran), he was likely disappointed. Mr. Romney went out of his way to argue that killing bad guys would not be enough to fight radical forces; economic development, education and civil society are key ingredients to future stability. Mr. Obama couldn't agree more.
Mr. Obama said his aim is to get Iran to stop its "nuclear program," while Romney spoke about preventing a "nuclear-capable" Iran. But neither candidate defined the point in Iran's nuclear enrichment that would trigger military action. Both agreed military action would be the last resort. And Mr. Romney even credited Mr. Obama for applying crippling sanctions, only criticizing him for not doing it earlier (which of course Mr. Obama denied) and suggesting he would find ways to strengthen them.