By Fareed Zakaria
Mitt Romney’s speech on foreign affairs this week was surprisingly moderate. Rhetorically it was full of sound and furybut, on closer examination, it signified no major change of policy. Romney affirmed the timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan; he did not propose sending troops back into Iraq and did not advocate military strikes on Iran. He pledged to work toward a two-state solution in the Middle East. He even left out the belligerence toward China that had been a staple of his speeches in recent months.
Romney proposed one policy shift, toward Syria. But even there — in a carefully worded, passive construction — he did not announce that as president, he would arm the Syrian opposition, merely that he would “ensure they obtain the arms they need.” The “they” is “those members of the opposition who share our values.” So, Romney’s sole divergence from current policy is that we should try harder to find non-Islamists among the Syrian rebels and encourage Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to give them more arms.
Romney’s moderation is partly a continuation of his pivot to the center. But it also reflects the lack of consensus among conservatives on what to do about the turmoil in the Middle East.