Forecasting the Debate

Some predictions for tonight’s foreign policy debate:

Both candidates will probably spend a lot ot time competing to show us several things that are NOT relevant to our foreign policy:

(1) Who can be tougher on our enemies (whether defined as China or terrorists);

(2) Who can be sweeter to Israel; and

(3) who can spend more money on defense.

In fact, success against China and terrorists will rely more on building international coalitions to strengthen our intelligence and reach than on US bluster; US policy will remain pro-Israel as it has been for decades whoever is elected; and the military wants more efficient spending, not just more money.

What the Candidates SHOULD be telling us is

(1) how they will make the US safer in an era of tight budgets, cyber-warfare, and the spread of drone technology to other nations;

(2)  how they will improve US relations with the world’s billion-strong Muslim population, that will soon grow to two billion, and encourage moderates to prevail against fundamentalists and anti-Western groups; and

(3)  how the US will encourage China to live up to its promises to develop in harmony with the rest of the world.

Also, both candidates should tell us their plans for Syria, and what they will do in January if a civil war is still raging there and threatening to spill into Turkey.  They should be clear on whether they will arm the opposition to Assad, and if not, why not.  This is the most pressing and most difficult military and humanitarian crisis in the world today, so we can learn a lot about the candidates’ foreign policy from their approach to this topic.

However, I expect not to hear as much as about this, and the 20,000 Syrians who have died in their civil war, as the question of who bears responsibility for the death of 4 U.S. personnel in Libya.  Such is public stage politics….

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About jackgoldstone

Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University
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