Ackerman describes Romney’s dilemma in responding to the Afghanistan timetable:
And what’s Romney going to do? Say that as president, he’s going to convince NATO — and Karzai! — not to hew to a 2013 (or 2014!) timetable for ending combat? That he’d keep the U.S. fighting in Afghanistan beyond that point? How’s he going to sell that in Brussels and the NATO capitols [sic]? How’s he gonna sell that in Kabul? How’s he gonna sell that in Kansas?
Remember, a major part of Romney’s foreign policy critique of Obama is that Obama callously mistreats and neglects U.S. allies. The allies, however, want the 2013 timetable. Romney surely had to bash the change in the timetable; that’s all in the game. But Mitt doesn’t seem to have thought through the angles here.
I suppose the easiest way for Romney to get out of the trap he has constructed for himself is to adopt some new talking points. He could throw out his ludicrous “not an inch of space” rhetoric, and then maybe he could try to revive the Bush-era view that held that American allies exist to do our bidding and should be punished for their “ingratitude” when they fail. It wouldn’t be an improvement over his unworkable idea that the U.S. should never disagree publicly with allied governments, but it would certainly change things up. At present, Romney’s complaint is that Obama is publicly announcing something that all of the allied governments involved support, but he also wants to keep saying that Obama has done a terrible job of managing relationships with allies. Romney is remarkably flexible when it comes to policy positions, but I don’t think he will be able to keep making two mutually contradictory attacks at the same time.