Romney's Foreign Policy Players Draw From Elder Bush's Bench

As security issues take center stage, Romney expected to be less hawkish than George W. Bush.

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The people advising Mitt Romney suggest the presumptive GOP nominee would be more in line with the pragmatic George H.W. Bush than the 41st president's hawkish son on the global stage.

Romney has mostly populated his list of national security and foreign policy advisers with veterans of Washington policy debates, though several insiders noted the inclusion of several fresh faces.

There is John Lehman, the Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, who sources say is a lead actor in the Romney cast. Then there are Michael Chertoff and Michael Hayden, the Homeland Security secretary and CIA director who both served under President George W. Bush. Two former GOP senators, Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Jim Talent of Missouri, also are on Romney's team.

The supporting cast is also composed of Washington's security and foreign policy veterans: Eric Edleman and Dov Zakheim, who held high-level Pentagon posts under the younger Bush. Zakheim's son, Roger, a senior staffer on the House Armed Services Committee, is also assisting Romney, along with Dan Senor and Megan O'Sullivan, who emerged as major players during the Iraq war.

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"The first impression you get is the campaign has rounded up the usual suspects," says one D.C. insider who has advised Republican and Democratic administration on security and foreign policy issues. "There are a number of people who are simply not surprises and have served in a lot of senior positions over the years."

Several Romney advisers—all requested anonymity—say the campaign largely focused on domestic and economic issues during the rough-and-tumble GOP primary season that was tougher than the former Massachusetts governor and his senior aides expected. For that reason, the advisers say the presumptive Republican nominee's policy prescriptions on many major global issues are still a work in progress.

While the advisers feature several noted hawks, "by and large, these are practical people first, not radical hawks," the D.C. insider says.

That means, should Romney win in November, "I don't think we'll see a return to the first George W. Bush term of the neoconservatives trying to democratize the entire Middle East," the insider says. "If this is the group that populates Romney's war cabinet, I think it'll look much more like George H.W. Bush than Bush the son."

As the general election campaign enters its infancy, Romney and his advisers are signalling he would be more of a hawk than Obama.

For instance, Romney surrogates accused Obama Thursday of failing to end Iran's quest for nuclear weapons, while also charging the sitting commander in chief should intervene in Syria's brutal civil war.

"We're very supportive of non-military tracks, but we believe that this Iranian leadership will only feel compelled to respond to them in a meaningful way if they believe the alternative is worse, and the administration has gone out of its way to convey that the military option is not serious," said Senor.

Gordon Adams, who oversaw national security budgeting for the Clinton administration, says when Romney's security advisers speak, "they have nothing to say." Adams, who is not involved in Obama's re-election campaign, questions Romney and his advisers' repeated comments about Russia and building move Navy ships in a time of tight budgets.

"This is the 'B-Team' of Republicans," Adam says. "And the 'B-Team' brought us Iraq, so I'm not sure they deserve to come back into office."

As Romney and his surrogates hone their campaign-season rhetoric that will attack Obama's foreign policy, some experts are preaching caution.

Obama has scored a string of victories on the global stage, they note. He went against most members of his war cabinet in ordering the gutsy mission in Pakistan that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and decided to intervene in the Libyan civil war that drove strongman Moammar Gadhaffi from power, eventually leading to his death.

Obama brought an end to the Iraq war, and green-lighted a surge of 30,000 U.S. forces into Afghanistan, a troop infusion that generals and military experts say helped Western and Afghan forces gain the upper hand there after a decade of fighting that had produced a virtual stalemate.