The final presidential debate saw the candidates lock horns over foreign policy, with Obama attacking his rival's inconsistencies. Romney responded by criticizing the incumbent for an “apology tour” that weakened the US’ image on the world stage.
US President Barack Obama went on the offensive in the third and final round of the debates, moving quickly to get the first blow and slamming his opponent for harking back to a Cold War-style foreign policy. GOP presidential nominee Governer Mitt Romney said that he would champion the image of a strong America and stressed that his policies did not solely consist of “going after the bad guy.”
“My strategy is broader than that. It is important to get the Muslim world to reject extremism," he said. “We don’t want another Iraq. We don’t want another Afghanistan.”
In what may have been a veiled dig at the Obama campaign’s frequent touting of the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, Romney said that “we cannot kill our way out of this.”
Obama countered by mocking Romney’s statement during a CNN interview that Russia was the US’ number-one geopolitical foe. "The Cold War has been over for 20 years," Obama said. "When it comes to your foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s."
Obama accused his opponent of an incoherent and reckless foreign policy, stating that Romney’s foreign policy opinions had been ‘wrong at every turn.’
“We need strong, steady American leadership on the Middle East; Romney has been the opposite,” Obama said.
Romney responded to the provocation by saying that “attacking me is not an agenda, attacking me is not how we deal with the challenges of the Middle East."
Romney strongly criticized cuts made to the US military budget, stressing the need for ‘strong’ armed forces. He focused his criticism on the US Navy, arguing that he will increase the number of warships built.
In a scathing retort, Obama said that Romney’s military policy was simply about “counting ships.”
"Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets," Obama said.
The two politicians also clashed over the US stance in Iran. Though Romney previously took a hawkish line against the country he branded the greatest threat to international security, he said that military intervention against Tehran should be a last resort.
He went on to criticize Obama for not further tightening economic sanctions against the country. He also accused the president of abandoning Israel, a key US ally in the region, by allowing ‘daylight’ between the two countries.
Obama reiterated his support for the current sanctions against Iran, and expressed firm support for Israel.
Despite the often pointed rhetoric, by the end of the debate both candidates appeared to differ very little on major issues of foreign policy. Both agreed on the necessity of the 2014 troop withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan, and on the aggressive pursuit of sanctions against Iran.
With millions of viewers watching and Obama and Romney neck-and-neck in the polls, this debate was the last chance for both candidates to drum up support.
Foreign policy has been a particular point of contention for the Obama administration, with the Republican opposition consistently condemning the President's 'weak' stance on the Middle East.