“If he wants to become the commander-in-chief, Mr. Romney needs to begin acting like one,” writes Ricochet’s Bill McGurn in his WSJ column today. Noticeably absent not only from Romney’s convention speech, but from his entire campaign thus far has been any substantive platform concerning America’s role in Afghanistan.
In the section devoted to Afghanistan on his website, Mr. Romney’s starts out strong. He scores Mr. Obama for the “protracted deliberation process” he pursued before he announced his Afghanistan policy, for pulling back troops against the advice of his commanders, indeed, for a withdrawal dictated more by election year politics than military goals. All these things give Mr. Romney an opening to present the American people with a real choice about what ought to come next.
So what does he offer? The next paragraph lays it out. Mr. Romney vows a “review” based on “discussions with our commanders in the field.” Not only that, but “a full interagency assessment.” More cooperation “with both the Afghan government and Pakistan.” And so on.
Bill argues that this is just plainly unacceptable from a man who is campaigning to become the next commander-in-chief.
Whatever the reason, even after Mr. Obama’s surge forces return home, America will have 68,000 men and women in uniform there. Mr. Romney’s reluctance to outline a thoughtful policy on Afghanistan does not make it go away. To the contrary, it only ratifies President Obama’s contention that the only choice is between getting out quick and an open-ended commitment as far as the eye can see.
That is a disservice. It is, first, a disservice to the stronger foreign policy Mr. Romney is alleged to represent. Does he really believe, for example, that the Israelis will be encouraged and the Iranians deterred by expressions of resolve from a political leader so reluctant to bring up a war Americans are actually fighting?
This criticism is scathing, but constructive. The question, though, is whether Romney will risk delving into a discussion of foreign policy with fewer than 60 days before the election.