Presidential Candidates Speak Out On Foreign Policy

October 7, 2011 By John Glenn

With the GOP primary field apparently settled, several candidates are providing more details about their foreign policy views, with Mitt Romney delivering a major speech today and Jon Huntsman set to do so on Monday.

In his remarks at the Citadel, Romney called for a future where, “America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world.”  Allying himself with President Reagan’s vision of “peace through strength,” Romney highlighted American exceptionalism and rejected the view that American power is on the decline, saying “without American leadership, without clarity of American purpose and resolve, the world becomes a far more dangerous place, and liberty and prosperity would surely be among the first casualties.”

As for our issues, in the speech and accompanying White Paper released by the campaign, Romney reinforced the message in support of “soft power” in his book, No Apology.  He reiterated that he would apply “the full spectrum of hard and soft power to influence events before they erupt into conflict.  Resort to force is always the least desirable and costliest option. We must therefore employ all the tools of statecraft to shape the outcome of threatening situations before they demand military action.”  He called for America to “promote open markets, representative government, and respect for human rights,” and said his Administration would the “exercise leadership in multilateral organizations and alliances.”  On the UN, Romney said his Administration would work to “focus multilateral institutions like the United Nations on achieving the substantive goals of democracy and human rights enshrined in their charters.”

The speech and White Paper did not provide more detailed information on the Governor’s views on development, such as global health, food security, or agricultural development.  The White Paper calls for reorganizing the diplomatic corps along the regional lines of the military combatant commands to facilitate coordination.  It criticizes the “balkanized scheme” of American foreign assistance programs and called for clarifying authorities by appointing a single person responsible for all diplomatic and assistance programs in a region.  While many of these views are in line with Romney’s book and previous statements, the speech and white paper reinforce his commitment to using  all of America’s tools—defense, diplomacy and development—when addressing the threats facing our nation.

Romney also outlined eight actions he would take in his first hundred days of office, including a few related to the civilian side:

  • Establishing a single point of responsibility for all soft power resources in the Middle East
  • Launching a campaign for economic opportunity in Latin America
  • Strengthening and repairing relationships with steadfast allies
  • Conduct a full review of our transition in Afghanistan


As for Governor Huntsman, he released what appears to be a preview of his foreign policy speech scheduled for Monday in an op-ed in Politico this morning. Huntsman called for more comprehensive engagement with the world, saying, ““To protect American interests, we need to transform our foreign policy for the modern world. Simply advocating for more ships, more troops and more weapons isn’t a viable foreign policy. We need more agility, more intelligence and more economic engagement with the world.”

With another Republican debate scheduled for next week, we will be monitoring the other candidates’ responses to Governor Romney and Governor Huntsman, and waiting for their own plans for the direction of U.S. foreign policy.