JANESVILLE, Wis. — Mitt Romney will not rule out deploying U.S. troops to Libya, aides told reporters in advance of the Republican nominee's foreign policy speech today.
The position is a dramatic departure from a core principle of President Barack Obama's intervention in Libya: No boots on the ground.
Romney is set to deliver a sharp critique of President Barack Obama's handling off the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, saying it, and other violent protests the region "should not be seen as random acts."
"It’s a much broader, much more difficult kind of phenomenon to deal with," said Romney Special Adviser Eliot Cohen.
"Gov Romney understands full well that this was not about a film," Cohen added.
"In Libya, I will support the Libyan people’s efforts to forge a lasting government that represents all of them, and I will vigorously pursue the terrorists who attacked our consulate in Benghazi and killed Americans," Romney will say in his speech to the Virginia Military Institute.
A reporter asked Romney foreign policy hands directly whether Romney would support sending U.S. troops to Libya to help stabilize the burgeoning democracy — and specifically to help train Libyan forces to counteract the militias.
"There is the impulse of moderation there," said former Ambassador Rich Williamson replied, not ruling out the question. "There're ways working with others that we can be encouraging and working with those forces."
"While drones and drone attacks are worthwhile — it’s great to kill bad guys — you fundamentally misunderstand this struggle if you think that’s the answer to it," Williamson told reporters, an intended contrast with Obama's policies.
A campaign spokesperson declined to comment on whether Williamson spoke for the campaign.
Obama ruled out sending American troops to yet another Muslim country, reflecting national exhaustion with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has sought instead to support local allies — a strategy whose weaknesses the Benghazi process exposed, despite a generally pro-American posture among many of the country's new leaders.
After the consulate attack, Obama deployed a Marine security force of 50 Marines to the country with the sole mission of safeguarding U.S. property and personnel in Libya.