During Monday night’s third and final presidential debate, Mitt Romney the hardline hawk turned tail and ran away from almost every foreign policy position he’s held for months. Monday’s Romney backed unconditional withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2014, after having previously declared the pull-out be “based upon the conditions on the ground determined by the generals.” The supporter of George W. Bush's war on Saddam Hussein now says, "We don't want another Iraq, we don't want another Afghanistan." He pledged to increase foreign aid, after having promised GOP primary voters he would start every country’s assistance “at zero.” And Romney’s bluster about a drawing a red line at Iran developing a “nuclear capability” just “one screwdriver's turn away from a nuclear weapon” was gone.
Of course, to keep the campaign’s focus on economic issues Romney’s strategy was to neutralize President Obama’s advantage on foreign policy and national security by seemingly adopting it lock, stock and not-so-smoking barrel. The only question left isn’t whether Romney's laughably long list of foreign policy flip-fops, flubs and follies shows his unworthiness to be Commander-in-Chief, but whether voters will punish him for it.
Romney Opposed U.S. Strikes Against Bin Laden in Pakistan. In December, Governor Romney brushed off Chuck Todd's suggestion that President Obama deserved credit for ordering the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden:
"I think in a setting like this one where Osama bin Laden was identified to be hiding in Pakistan, that it was entirely appropriate for this president to move in and to take him out," Romney replied, later adding that "In a similar circumstance, I think other presidents and other candidates, like myself, would do exactly the same thing."
As it turns out, not so much. Throughout 2007 and 2008, then Senator Barack Obama declared "we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights." Like President Bush and John McCain, Mitt Romney opposed unilateral American action to kill the Al Qaeda chieftain and his henchmen:
"I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours... I don't think those kinds of comments help in this effort to draw more friends to our effort..."There is a war being waged by terrorists of different types and nature across the world," Romney said. "We want, as a civilized world, to participate with other nations in this civilized effort to help those nations reject the extreme with them."
Of course, Romney's confusion about whether or not to respect Pakistani sovereignty may have something to do with his past reversals about whether or not killing Osama Bin Laden even mattered. After insisting in late April 2007 that "It's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person," Romney under fire from the right reversed course just three days later and declared of Bin Laden, "He's going to pay, and he will die." (That also explains his ridiculous comment five years ago that "I want to double Guantanamo," and his plans now to revive the Bush administration's regime of detainee torture.)
Romney's comical past on Afghanistan and lack of policy specifics on its present largely explain why the GOP nominee was so noticeably silent on the topic at the Republican National Convention.