The trouble is that the implication of his argument is a promise to return to the Manichean world view of George W. Bush – in which nations are divided firmly into friends and enemies of the US and policy is set accordingly.
Mr Romney has already called Russia, America’s “number one geopolitical foe”, and promised to designate China a “currency manipulator” on his first day in office – a move that could be a prelude to trade sanctions. In Israel, over the weekend, he came close to encouraging an attack on Iran.
Those who yearn for a US foreign policy based on a Bush-style “moral clarity” and the confrontation of autocracies might thrill to all this. The implications are alarming, however: war with Iran, trade war with China, confrontation with Russia.
Mr Obama’s emphasis on diplomacy, even if it is difficult, is preferable to a foreign policy based on biffing “bad guys”. Talking to the Russians and trying to avoid war with the Iranians does not mean that you lack a moral compass or are “weak”. It simply means that – even if you have no illusions about the regimes you are dealing with – you try to find ways of living with them, as long as they last.