"A military action is the last resort," he said. He praised Obama's economic sanctions on Iran as "the right thing to do."
On only one issue did the candidates clash directly: defense spending. Obama has called for modest cuts in the Pentagon budget over the coming decade; Romney has proposed a major funding increase.
"We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined," Obama complained. "The math [of Romney's proposal] just doesn't work."
Romney defended his arithmetic, but the confrontation allowed both candidates to pivot to the ground on which this election is really being fought: domestic economic policy.
"It's time to do some nation building right here at home," Obama said, citing education, energy and scientific research.
"I know what it takes to create 12 million new jobs," Romney said.
Their body language suggested that this was the real battle; foreign policy was just a sideshow.
But we, and they, knew that all along.
Follow Doyle McManus on Twitter @DoyleMcManus