Wasn’t That Debate Supposed To Be About Foreign Policy?

Hey, I thought that debate was supposed to be on foreign policy!

Okay, there was some discussion on foreign policy topics, but President Obama took every opportunity to turn to domestic issues, and Mitt Romney was perfectly comfortable going to domestic issues, too.  President Obama’s phrase of the night was “we need to do some nation-building at home” — something he mentioned multiple times.  He also spoke, frequently, of women’s rights and education.

The tone of the debate, overall, was more civil, with more willingness to indicate agreement than we have seen.  That may well have been Romney’s strategy.  Still, there were some awkward shots taken, and in my view, they were mostly taken by the President.  The President had an obviously scripted comment —  “The 1980s called and is asking for its foreign policy back,” followed by a reference to a “social policy of the 1950s” and “economic policy of the 1920s,” that I thought was forced and unfortunate.  The President’s later comment that foreign affairs isn’t a game of Battleship, and involves aircraft carriers and submarines, also seemed patronizing and harsh, and struck a clanging note in my view.  The President’s interruption of Romney when Romney was explaining his position on the auto industry also seemed unnecessarily aggressive.  C’mon, Mr. President — let him answer, then give your response.

I thought both candidates did a good job, but I would give the edge to Romney.  The President has had the job and has dealt with foreign affairs for years; Romney looked like he belongs on the same stage as the President and could speak knowledgeably about every topic thrown his way — whether it was China, or Iran, or trade policy.  Romney’s closing statement was, I thought, very effective as well.  Romney looked like he could be President, and that clearly was one of his more important goals.

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Buckeye Swag Is Sweet

Ohio State football is full of tradition, but that doesn’t mean new traditions can’t be added.  After Saturday’s thrilling overtime win against Purdue I had my first exposure to Buckeye Swag, a very cool song The Best Damn Band In The Land plays while the players dance, people sing “Ooooooooooo . . . HI . . . ooooooooO” and the fans cheer a home field victory.  It looked like the players had a riot dancing to the song and celebrating their win, and the Band did, too.  This YouTube video captures a portion of the fun.

I’ll get behind any Ohio State football tradition that involves TBDBITL, a win, and college students getting to act like exuberant college students.

The Final Debate

Tonight, in Florida, President Obama and Mitt Romney have their final debate.  This debate will focus on foreign policy and — as UJ notes in his post today about the Middle East — there is a lot to talk about.

The debate will follow the same format as the first debate.  There will be six 15-minute discussion pods on topics selected by the moderator, Bob Schieffer of CBS News.  The moderator will open each segment with a question, each candidate will have two minutes to respond, and the moderator will guide a discussion of the topic for the remainder of the 15 minutes.  The six topics selected by Schieffer are:  “America’s role in the world,” “Our longest war — Afghanistan and Pakistan,” “Red Lines — Israel and Iran,” “The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism (I and II),” and “The Rise of China and Tomorrow’s World.”  The moderator reserves the right to change the topics depending on developments, and the order of the topics also can be changed.

It will be interesting to see if there is a change in tone for tonight’s debate.  The last presidential debate was heated, with some very sharp exchanges.  Hyper-aggressive posturing by the candidates may be acceptable when domestic policy is being discussed, but foreign policy is a different arena.  Although the candidates obviously will be thinking of how their statements will affect the presidential race, they also need to be mindful of the foreign audience that will be watching the debate.  I’m sure the people of Israel, for example, will be carefully reviewing the discussion during the “Red Lines:  Israel and Iran” segment.  The candidates will need to speak clearly and be cautious in their comments and (of course!) avoid the devastating gaffe.  I’m sure both the President and Mitt Romney have been practicing the pronunciation of the names of foreign leaders.

For those of us here in America, Libya obviously has been in the spotlight.  Every day, revelations raise new questions about our security arrangements in Benghazi, our lack of a response while the attack was ongoing, and our conflicting and misleading statements after the attack ended.  Another big topic will be Afghanistan and Iraq, where so many of our sons and daughters have served for so long and so many families have suffered devastating losses.  What can we do to make sure that the gains obtained through their service are protected, while extricating ourselves from conflicts that seem never-ending?

It’s a dangerous world out there.  In addition to the rise of Islamic fanaticism and the always unsettled Middle East, there is the ongoing, hair-trigger stand-off between North and South Korea, a resurgent Russia eager to flex its geopolitical muscle, a European Union that seems to be collapsing under the weight of its fiscal irresponsibility, and tensions between China, Japan, and Taiwan about the sovereignty of islands, among many other issues.  UJ’s post notwithstanding, I don’t think President Bush can be blamed for all of these issues — and even if he could, laying blame on a President who has been out of office for four years does nothing to solve the problems.  In tonight’s debate I’ll be listening for thoughtful discussion of these issues and reasonable solutions, not finger-pointing.

Last but Not Least the Foreign Policy Debate !

Tonight we will hear from both candidates on Foreign Policy. We know pretty much by now what we are going to get from the president over the next four years, but the question is what will we get from Mr. Romney if he becomes president.

I just finished reading an interesting book titled Obama and the Middle East by Fawaz Gerges an influential writer on the troubled region which I highly recommend. The book takes the reader from a time when the United States was highly respected to where we are today. The author categorizes the current presidents policy as modest and humble as opposed to the Bush Cheney ideology of power and assertiveness.

In contrast to Bush, president Obama is not a liberal interventionist and is much less inclined to use force to advance American causes setting strict limits to any use of military force while encouraging multi-lateralism as opposed to unilateralism.

Per the author the president and Hillary Clinton have had to spend much of their time trying to redirect American foreign policies in a more constructive direction because of the damage done by the Iraq War which the Arab world looks at as an effort by our country to create a democratic model for Iraq’s neighbors to follow.

The use of torture and the abuse of Iragi prisoners at Abu Ghraib significantly damaged America’s moral credibility in the Arab world too. These events have reinforced a widely held belief by Arabs that the United States believes that it stands above international laws and practices. The author believes that the Bush Doctrine has created more enemies and more terrorists that we will have to confront in the future.

The president also draws critical remarks from the author because he has turned a blind eye towards Israel continuing to construct settlements on Palestinian land which makes a two country solution more improbable. He explains it as negotiations over how to divide a pizza pie while one side is eating all of the pizza.

Frustrated Arab countries who once looked to the United States for leadership are weary of our rhetoric and inaction so they now turn to Egypt, Turkey and Iran for solutions to their problems. It will take more than four years to undo the damage that has been done and for Arab countries to again look to the United States for leadership in the region.

My hope is that Mr Romney if he becomes president doesn’t return to the Bush foreign policy, but if he does we can look forward to more bitterness and angry to be directed at us for many years to come.