Presidential Debate: 12 Foreign Policy Attacks the Candidates Have Launched

Past comments on foreign policy give clues to some zingers the candidates might use Monday night.

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President Barack Obama, right, and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, participate in the presidential debate, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

The topics have been released ahead of the foreign policy debate Monday night, which will be held at the tiny Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. While Whispers can't predict the direction this debate might veer — to binders full of women, or a snoozing president — we have a clue as to how the candidates might bash one another on foreign policy.

Below are key attacks Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have launched this campaign that relate to the debate's expected topics:

Topic 1: "America's Role in the World":

"It is the responsibility of our president to use America's great power to shape history, not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events. Unfortunately, that is exactly where we find ourselves in the Middle East under President Obama."

Romney in a speech at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va., in October

President Barack Obama, right, and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, participate in the presidential debate, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

"World affairs are a challenge for every candidate...Some of you guys remember, after my foreign trip in 2008, I was attacked as a celebrity because I was so popular with our allies overseas. And I have to say, I'm impressed with how well Governor Romney has avoided that problem."

Obama at the Alfred E. Smith charity dinner in New York

[RELATED: Obama, Romney Set for Foreign Policy Clash]

Topic 2: "Our longest war—Afghanistan and Pakistan":

"Mitt Romney would have left 30,000 troops [in Afghanistan], and called bringing them home 'tragic'... Romney calls it Obama's biggest mistake."

From a new Obama campaign ad out Monday

"When our men and women are in harm's way, I expect the president of the United States to address the nation on a regular basis and explain what's happening and why they're there. ... Other presidents have done this. We haven't heard this president do this."

Romney during a campaign stop in New Hampshire in August

Topic 3: "Red Lines—Israel and Iran":

"When we say an Iranian nuclear-weapons capability... is unacceptable, the ayatollahs must be made to believe us."

Romney in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in September

"For two years, the president traveled the world putting together a withering international coalition. And now the sanctions that they agreed on are bringing the Iranian economy to its knees."

Senior Obama adviser David Axelrod responding to Romney's criticisms Oct. 20

Topics 4 and 5: "The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism—I and II":

"Disturbing developments are sweeping across the greater Middle East. In Syria, tens of thousands of innocent people have been slaughtered... In Libya, our ambassador was murdered in a terrorist attack. ... These developments are not, as President Obama says, mere 'bumps in the road.' They are major issues that put our security at risk."

Romney in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in September

"If Governor Romney is suggesting that we should start another war, he should say so."

Obama on 60 Minutes in September

"It was a terrorist attack, and it took a long time for that to be told to the American people. ... I think you have to ask yourself why didn't we know five days later when the ambassador to the United Nations went on TV to say that this was a demonstration. How could we have not known?"

Romney in the second presidential debate

"The suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the secretary of state, our U.N. ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That's not what we do. That's not what I do as president. That's not what I do as commander in chief."

Obama in the second presidential debate

[RELATED: Join U.S. News For Live Coverage of the Debate]

Topic 6: "The Rise of China and Tomorrow's World":

"On Day 1, I will label China a currency manipulator, which will allow me as president to be able to put in place, if necessary, tariffs where I believe that they are taking unfair advantage of our manufacturers."

Romney in the second presidential debate

"What we have found is that when we push them very hard but we don't go out of our way to embarrass them, we get results. ... We're not interested in triggering an all-out trade war that would damage both economies."

Obama in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer in September

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or reach her at eflock@usnews.com.