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Doesn't America have more than 42 allies?

One of the odder moments of last night's debate was Mitt Romney's reference to America's 42 allies:

We need to have strong allies. Our association and — and connection with our allies is essential to America’s strength. We’re the — the great nation that has allies, 42 allies and friends around the world.

Spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the Daily Caller that Romney was referring to "NATO Allies, Major Non-NATO Allies, and NATO contact countries” and provided a list. It's still a strangely limited definition.

I suspect most Americans would be surprised by a list of allies that includes Pakistan, but not Mexico. The exclusion of China is certainly arguable, though it's America's second-largest trading partner, but what about India? The United States, apparently, has no allies in sub-Saharan Africa, which is probably news to those U.S. troops helping to train the Ugandan military. The only U.S. ally in Latin America is Argentina. (So much for that whole Plan Colombia thing.) Bahrain is a U.S. ally, but non-NATO member Sweden -- which has sent troops to Afghanistan -- is not. We may all be Georgians, as John McCain famously put it, but the Georgians are not U.S. allies.

Romney's list is actually smaller than the 49 countries than the Bush administration listed as part of the Coalition of the Willing. A symptom of American decline, perhaps?

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Which country was mentioned most at the foreign-policy debate?

Answer: Iran.

For evidence that the United States is still disproportionately focused on the Middle East despite all the talk about the pivot (or should I say "strategic rebalancing?") toward the Asia-Pacific region, look no further than the country mentions at tonight's foreign-policy debate:

  • Iran: 47
  • China: 35
  • Israel: 34
  • Afghanistan: 29 
  • Syria: 28
  • Pakistan: 25 
  • Iraq: 22
  • Libya: 12
  • Egypt: 11
  • Russia: 10
  • Mali: 4
  • Turkey: 3
  • Great Britain/United Kingdom:
  • Greece:
  • Lebanon: 2
  • Saudi Arabia: 2
  • Cuba: 1  
  • France:
  • North Korea:
  • Qatar: 1
  • Somalia: 1
  • Yemen: 1

The surprise of the night? Romney's four references to Mali (in the context of al Qaeda's resurgence), a country he hasn't mentioned in his major foreign-policy addresses or even in his campaign website's Africa section. The Republican candidate clearly studied up on al Qaeda's new franchises

Update: Thanks to our readers for spotting a few other country mentions. The candidates and moderator also referenced Japan, Poland, and Tunisia -- one time each. 

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images