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Critics said Mr. Romney tried to carve out differences but didn’t articulate a dramatically different vision from the president’s.

“When push comes to shove, it seems to me in this speech that Romney’s a realist and so is Obama,” said Gordon Adams, an international relations professor at American University who served on President Clinton’s national security staff during the mid-1990s.

“When it comes to defining exactly what Romney would do, whether it’s toward Iran or Egypt, or Libya or Syria or Israel, it’s pretty much the same thing when the rubber hits the road that Obama’s already doing,” Mr. Adams said. “And where it’s not, it’s manifestly unrealistic.”

He added that when it comes to overall U.S. foreign policy, “The elusiveness of strategy in the 21st century is intense, and it’s particularly intense in the region that Romney chose to focus on.

“You need to be aware of the fact that not everybody looks to the United States to shape their course of events, and this is particularly true in the Mideast.”

On the issue of standing up countering Iranian nuclear ambitions, Mrs. Albright said, “Short of immediate military action, [Mr. Romney] can’t specify what he’d do differently on Iran than the president.”

U.S. assistance to Egypt, the former secretary of state added, is “already conditioned on many of the things that he listed, like Egypt meeting its obligations to its — the peace treaty with Israel and to proceed with its transition to democracy.”