By Samuel Burke, CNN
In the race for President of the United States, domestic policy has so far dominated both campaigns.
But Thursday, Republican candidate Mitt Romney took on the world in his first major foreign policy address. Romney accused President Barack Obama of failing to assert American leadership in the world’s most volatile regions. “I know the president hopes for a safer, freer and more prosperous Middle East allied with us. I share this hope. But hope is not a strategy,” Romney said.
A recent poll shows that a majority of Americans currently prefer Obama's foreign policy to Romney’s 52% to 45%. And as Romney presented his worldview, Obama fought back with a sharply critical ad of Romney's foray into this arena so far, depicting his July tour of Europe and Israel as “reckless” and “amateurish.”
Romney on Syria
“In Syria, I'll work with our partners to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values,” Romney said. “And then ensure that they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad's tanks and helicopters and fighter jets.”
David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for "The New York Times," said Romney’s speech was good in its critique diminished American influence in the Middle East. But Sanger, in his reporting, has characterized Romney’s foreign policy team as fractured. He said he saw those same fractures in Romney’s speech.
“He made the case that the Syrian rebels needed to be armed against President Assad,” Sanger said. “In fact, the Obama administration has been allowing some of the Gulf States to go do that, but he stopped short of saying it was the U.S. that should provide those arms.”
Jamie Rubin, former assistant secretary of state for public affairs Amanpour’s husband, said the speech was good for Romney’s campaign because it was a strong attempt to appear moderate.
“It wasn't the extreme wing of the Republican Party, those who would bomb first and ask questions later,” Rubin said.
But Rubin also said the speech lacked specifics. “It wasn't a real policy speech; it was more of a thematic speech.”
Obama and drones
Drones have been a signature tool for Obama’s foreign policy. They have been used in the pursuit of al-Qaeda and other terrorists, and helped in the killing of Osama bin Laden.
But Romney criticized Obama’s use of drones as a great tool, but not a strategy.
Sanger said Romney has a point, and said he was implying that Obama has become overly reliant on drones as a mere tactic.
“I think that this is an area where President Obama is quite vulnerable. Obviously, the drone attacks began under President Bush, but we've seen nearly a six fold increase in President Obama's nearly four years in office, over the number of drone attacks, particularly in Pakistan, that we saw during the entirety of the Bush administration.”
Iran and nuclear capabilities
Romney said in his speech, “I'll put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran and will tighten the sanctions we currently have. For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions, not just words, that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.”
Rubin said by using the word "capability," Romney was implying that any enrichment of uranium would be prevented.
But he added that neither George W. Bush nor Obama has been able to do that.
“Everybody says they're going to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.” Rubin said. “The problem is when you get into office you discover that it isn't so easy. Sanctions haven't stopped them from enriching uranium."