The 2012 presidential debates have come to a close and with it any hope for a real discussion of the substantive issues that have otherwise been neglected. The debate on Monday night was supposed to be centered around the topic of foreign policy, but that quickly took a backseat as the candidates shifted back to domestic policy - items that have been discussed ad nauseum in previous debates and seemingly endless political ads.
On the occasion that actual foreign policy was discussed, the candidates traded arguments on issues you’d probably expect: Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Israel, Libya, China, etc. Governor Romney finally spoke about the war in Afghanistan, essentially siding with the Obama administration. President Obama chided the Governor on his lackadaisical attitude toward pursuing Osama Bin Laden. In sum, Romney advocates a stronger and more aggressive military by expanding the defense budget by another trillion dollars. President Obama, on the other hand, seeks to maintain the current defense budget, make precision cuts in some areas and ultimately command a smarter, leaner military.
A 90 minute debate, in theory, offers plenty of time to discuss a plethora of issues regarding America’s foreign policy. The candidates certainly couldn’t cover the whole gamut but had they stuck to the topic at hand rather than segueing into domestic policy, they might have covered more ground. I would have liked to hear the candidates’ positions on issues such as the Israel/Palestine conflict and the blockade on Gaza, the current crisis in the Eurozone, Mexico’s drug war, drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan (Romney only glanced over this issue), North Korea, climate change, Guantanamo Bay, the National Defense Authorization Act and indefinite detention. Even just discussing their positions on foreign aid would have been nice.
Designating airtime for the proverbial elephants in the room (and there were some big elephants) provides a level of substance to issues that may otherwise remain – in the eyes of the voters – insignificant. Take the issues of Guantanamo Bay and the NDAA; both are political manifestations of the administrations views on human rights – here and abroad. They challenge the fundamental idea of whether every human being has a right to habeas corpus. Unfortunately the media doesn’t press the candidates on issues like these; they stick to asking safe questions. I don’t think there was a single issue discussed during this debate that we, the voters, hadn’t already heard a hundred times before. I must, in part, blame the moderator.
Hey Bob, quit asking such predictable questions. How about a curve ball once in a while?
I don’t mean to discredit the conversation that was had or diminish the issues that were discussed – they’re all important issues that deserve our attention. Our generation needs to pay close attention to how these conflicts play out into the future. The world is becoming an increasingly globalized and interdependent place. Our foreign policy, therefore, is directly connected to our success as a nation. It is a window into our national soul that exposes to the world the kind of universe that we want to live in. It is up to us, the people, to press the candidates on their positions regarding these elephants. Only when we are informed about the issues can we effectively choose a leader that best reflects this vision and embraces a foreign policy that promotes peace, friendship, equality, and justice.