Outside of a World War III scenario, it’s difficult to imagine why anyone thinks this is a healthy or reasonable pose for the U.S. to adopt with any of its allies. To the extent that allies have a serious disagreement, it’s useful for those to be aired publicly so that the respective publics can understand and pass judgments on the nature of those disagreements and the policies of each government.
Romney’s “locked arm in arm” view of alliances is the product of two bad habits he has cultivated during the campaign. The first is his bad habit of simply making things up about Obama’s foreign policy record. According to Romney’s version of the last three and a half years, Obama has repeatedly betrayed, undermined, or snubbed important allies and clients all over the world. That hasn’t actually happened to the countries Romney claims, and to the extent that U.S. relations with some allies have soured it is not for the reasons Romney gives. U.S.-Japanese relations were needlessly damaged by the quarrel over basing rights on Okinawa, but Romney doesn’t care about that and that isn’t what Romney has in mind. Romney wants to frame Obama’s record in terms of abandoning allies for the sake of appeasing hostile states, and problems in U.S. relationships with Turkey, Japan, or Pakistan don’t fit.
This is not the first time Romney has declared his intention to conflate U.S. interests with those of other countries. Previously, he has said that there would not be “an inch of difference” between the U.S. and its allies and clients. If Romney were serious about this, it would suggest that he doesn’t understand the purpose of alliances. America’s alliances exist to advance U.S. interests and are not ends in themselves. If Romney actually governed according to his “locked arm in arm” view, it would turn “no permanent allies, only permanent interests” on its head.
Romney’s recent Israel comments exemplify the other bad habit, which is Romney’s tendency to run to the opposite extreme of whatever it is he claims Obama has done. If Obama has supposedly distanced the U.S. from allies, Romney will embrace them so tightly that no one will be able to distinguish between America and the other country. If Obama has been too critical of one Israeli policy in public (by simply reiterating longstanding U.S. policy), Romney will invent a principle that dictates that the U.S. can never disagree publicly with any friendly or allied government. This puts Romney in a difficult position of crafting his foreign policy according to principles that are created to justify opportunistic campaign attacks. Romney’s idea that there should never be public disagreement with allies and clients is preposterous and completely unworkable, but without it he would have a much harder time finding fault with Obama on Israel.