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The Battle for Mitt Romney's Mind

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
May 6, 2012


Foreign policy sits so far back in American politics today that something quite important has gone almost unnoticed: Republicans are doing what does not come naturally—fighting openly on Afghan policy and edging toward an ever broader national-security squabble. They're usually quite disciplined about quieting their foreign-policy splits. But now the battle is on for the mind of Mitt Romney.

Romney, the likely party standard-bearer in November, himself legitimized the tussle by changing his own mind on the war from hard to soft to something else. But demons far deeper have been tugging at Republicans—namely, how to grapple with the new age of unending nonconventional threats and wars and lethal national debt. And with new times come new politics. Democrats are far less vulnerable on this score, as most Americans like President Obama's performance abroad, including his surprise trip to Afghanistan last week. But Afghan policy is more gravitational for Republicans; a recent Pew poll shows that 48 percent of them want U.S. forces out of Afghanistan as soon as possible, as do 62 percent of independents.

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