For much of the campaign, Mitt Romney seemed to forget that the United States is still fighting a war in Afghanistan, culminating in his convention speech which inexplicably ignored the war and American troops altogether.
Last night, we were reminded of why the Republican ticket says so little about the conflict: they haven't the foggiest idea what they're talking about. In reference to Paul Ryan, Charles P. Pierce wrote overnight, "He was more lost in Afghanistan than the Russian army ever was."
In a debate which had plenty of ups and downs, the congressman's efforts to be coherent on the war were cover-your-eyes awful. One the one hand, Ryan supports the Obama administration's withdrawal timetable:
"Now, with respect to Afghanistan, the 2014 deadline, we agree with a 2014 transition."
On the other hand, Ryan thinks the Obama administration's withdrawal timetable is dangerous:
"[W]e don't want to broadcast to our enemies 'put a date on your calendar, wait us out, and then come back.' ... What we don't want to do is give our allies reason to trust us less and our enemies more -- we don't want to embolden our enemies."
What's the Romney-Ryan ticket's position on the war? No one has a clue because the Republican candidates, four weeks from the election, haven't picked one yet. As Rachel noted in the post-debate coverage, "The Romney-Ryan ticket is not credible on the issue of the war.... Paul Ryan embarrassed himself on Afghanistan tonight in a way that he embarrassed himself on no other issue. He did not understand the question well enough to know that he was making a mistake because he's just learned this for the test. He doesn't understand any of it. I find that terrifying."
Incidentally, Dan Senor, a leading Romney-Ryan adviser on foreign policy, told Fox News yesterday that the Romney-Ryan position on Afghanistan "is the same as the president's," adding that Romney "obviously supports the president's position." Senor also said, "We have some disagreements with the president on Afghanistan." After endorsing 2014 withdrawal, Senor added, "If you're the Commander-in Chief, to broadcast timelines so our enemies are in the know about our next move" is a mistake.
If this wasn't so critically important, I might even feel sorry for the Republican ticket.