Mitt Romney came to Monday night's debate with a choice.
He could run to the right of President Obama on national security issues and also differentiate himself on such tricky matters as what to do about Syria, or the United States' complicated alliance with Pakistan.
Or he could essentially endorse Obama's aggressive campaign against American enemies such as al Qaeda and the Iranian regime and his administration's approach to knotty problems such as Syria and Afghanistan.
Despite some earlier campaign rhetoric, Romney chose to align himself almost completely with the Obama administration's approaches to these issues.
In a general election this makes good sense, as this happens to be in tune with what most Americans think. A majority do not want to become embroiled in a war with Iran and are comfortable with the muscular use of CIA drones against al Qaeda in Pakistan, which is one of the hallmarks of the Obama administration's approach to combating terrorism...
...Where there was major disagreement was on defense spending, which the Romney campaign says should not be cut. Romney cited a factoid that he has used before on the campaign trail, which is that the U.S. Navy today is supposedly smaller than it was in 1917.
This set up Obama for some of his best lines of the night: "Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines."
This served implicitly to make a larger point, which is that other than some vague gauzy rhetoric about the need for America to be stronger, Romney has never really articulated a strategy distinct from Obama's that would necessitate the larger military that he is calling for.
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