After watching the third presidential debate, are you clear on America's foreign policy? I thought not. That's because there appears to be no singular foreign policy, rather a series of foreign policies, which must be tailored to fit each nation.
I expected Mitt Romney to go after President Barack Obama on his most recent foreign policy failure, the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed, including the U.S. ambassador. The president had no explanation as to why there was inadequate security in Benghazi, preferring instead to say only that we are "going after the killers." Mr. Romney refused to press him on it. Some may have viewed this as a missed opportunity, but I think it was designed to show Mr. Romney's restraint and to counter the "do you want to get us into another Middle East war?" charge.
One of Mr. Romney's better lines was, "we can't kill our way out of this mess," meaning terrorism and the Middle East, but he failed to go for the political "kill"; instead he agreed with the president several times. Possibly for the same reasons I mentioned?
When moderator Bob Schieffer asked the ultimate question, "What is America's role in the world?" neither candidate's answer was revealing beyond their campaign speech bromides.
What was surprising was the reaction to the debate by some in the "liberal media," which has been in the tank for Mr. Obama since he began running for president. Some of them seemed to retreat from the worshipful attitude they have displayed toward the president since beginning four years ago to assist his self-promotion as a messianic deliverer from our national sins.
Former White House aide David Gergen said on CNN, "I think Mitt Romney did something that was extremely important to his campaign tonight, and that was he passed the commander-in-chief test." Indeed, that was all he had to do, much like Ronald Reagan in his 1980 debates with Jimmy Carter. If voters want to "fire" a president, they want to be assured his replacement is up to the job. Chuck Todd of NBC News said on MSNBC, "... the president's got bigger problems than trying to disqualify Mitt Romney now. The president has to re-qualify himself for a second term."
CNBC's John Harwood concluded that it was the president who looked like the challenger with his sharp attacks and interruptions. Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post tweeted, "If you had no idea about the race, the level of aggression from Obama would make you think he is behind."
Clearly Mr. Romney was playing it safe, a tactic football teams use when they're ahead and want to run out the clock. I wish he had noted, while congratulating the president for giving the go-ahead to kill Osama bin Laden, that what we are confronting now is not so much despotic leaders but a radical faith many believe encourages the murder or subjugation of nonbelievers.
According to Andrew McCarthy, author and former federal prosecutor, writing for the website the Counter Jihad Report, "In Cairo ... Hamas' chief, Khaled Mashal, gave a fiery speech calling for violent jihad against Israel. With approving nods from his hosts -- aides to Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader whom Egyptians elected their president -- Mashal exclaimed, 'Resistance [the Islamist euphemism for terrorism], not negotiation, is the path to the restoration of rights. ... Nothing will restore the homeland but jihad, the rifle, and self-sacrifice.'" How can diplomacy deter this level of fanaticism? Clearly the Obama administration's approach has not lowered the rhetoric or altered the behavior of jihadists.
The administration's policy toward Egypt has been to send more aid while attempting to get congressional approval for debt forgiveness.
The Obama administration has a foreign policy, or policies, that have been mostly ineffective, leaving the perception that America is weak. That always invites adventurism, even attacks, by our enemies.
Mr. Romney "won" the foreign policy debate by not losing it. Watch for the Obama campaign's attack ads to intensify, which will make Mr. Obama look even more like the challenger. Mr. Romney has the momentum. Now he must close the deal.
Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist. Readers may email him at email@example.com.