Starting 9 pm EST, President Obama and Republican nomiee Mitt Romney will face off in their third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.
Join me in analyzing what the candidates say and what they mean, when it comes to foreign policy. While Middle East remains the top of mind region, given the recent change of governments in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and the on-going civil war in Syria; one cannot ignore the financial crisis in Europe and siesmic changes undergoing in China and Asia.
US foreign policy analysis has never been so interesting.
Final Presidential Debate:
Topic: Foreign policy
The format for the debate will be identical to the first presidential debate and will focus on foreign policy.
PolicyMic will be covering the presidential debate live. For live updates, bookmark and refresh this page.
UPDATE : 2 PM : American Foreign policy - A clash of visions ?
Tonight's debate is ultimately about whose vision prevails. While it is becoming increasingly clear that both Gov. Romney and President Obama have America's best interests at heart, their visions seem to be diametrically opposed on how to achieve this desired outcome.
While Romney sounds increasingly like George W Bush when it comes to engagement with the rest of the world, Obama seeks to balance his idealism with a pragmatic approach.
It is also becoming clear, since the Arab Spring that the rules of American engagement in the Middle East in particular have changed. While the US supported transition of power in some countries, it is standing idly and letting the changes occur, on their own in others. This, Francis Fukuyama called "leading from behind" in a recent video interview.
In other parts of the world, the challenge is not so much one of political and military influence, as it is of economic clout.
As India and China make in-roads into Africa, through development assistance and other initiatives - is this a challenge to America's might ?
The real question, that one must ask is : American exceptionalism - is it a viable option anymore ? The world as we know is changing, both demographically, politically and also economically.
As historian of world-economy , Janet AbuLughod pointed out long ago, in her book "Before European Hegemony", core states become peripheral and peripheries become the core.
We are perhaps witnessing such a paradigmatic shift in our life-time. This may well be the biggest question before the candidates - in whether they will acknowledge this or continue to assert America's dominance over this discourse ?
I am looking forward to the debate and hope you can join.
UPDATE 8:20 PM : Hard power or Soft-power ?
The debate tonight will also, in my view be about the nature of American power across the world. Does the US have the resources, energy and moral authority to get involved in another conflict ?
Does a "soft-power" approach work better for US interests and what are the implications of this shift ? These are some of the questions that will be answered.
As Richard Haas, the President of Council on Foreign Relations mentioned in an Op-Ed, the boundaries between global and domestic are blurring. Issues such as Energy, Environment are not just local or domestic issues, but are being increasingly getting mixed up as an amalgam of both, and it is hard to un-pack them.
Amidst this inter-mingling of issues and dynamics, how does one navigate the power structures of the world ?
Does one adopt a hard stance and insist on US dominance across all sectors, as in the past - or step back and let the emerging countries decide their fate ? This is a choice not only between hard and soft-power but also about the paradigms of framing one's role in the world.
While Gov. Romney seems bent on pushing US exceptionalism, which characterised George W Bush's presidency for eight years, President Obama has veered between idealism and pragmatism.
This election is also about whether his approach will prevail for another four years, or will people choose a different approach ?
UPDATE : 9:03 PM - Challenge of Middle East and terrorism
Moderator - Libya and the challenge to the US.
Romney - We have seen an attack in Libya, an Islamist government in Egypt. We cannot kill our way in this. We need to help the world of Islam rid of terrorism.
Prescient points. But not much analysis from Romney.
UPDATE : 9:08 -
Romney : "We need to go after Jihadists and help the Muslim world. We need to give more economic development and rule of law".
He has not outlined one thing that President Obama's administration has not done. And he forgets that Iraq and Afghanistan's current situation is the result of two wars.
Watch live-streaming on Youtube.
On Syria .
Romney - We need to arm the rebels. We need a leadership effort in Syria.
Why does this sound like a bad idea ? Simply because, there is not enough clarity on who will lead after Assad falls.
How is the US to play a leadership role in the country ?
Obama - Libya serves as a good example. " When we went in and stopped the massacre, we made sure that Gaddafi couldnt stay there".
Libya's track record with the US has not been good. The PAN AM 103 flight bombing in 1988 is a case in which the country's nationals were implicated.
US does not have a good record in terms of change of leadership in the region.
Obama - "Youth have similar aspirations in the region, which are similar to those here". Thats spot on. Its the economy which is key - across the world.
UPDATE : 9:29 PM
Romney's vision seems unformed. He is mixing up domestic issues with foreign policy issues. He seems stuck with American exceptionalism, and hell bent on increasing "global peace" without detailing out how he intends to do that.
His plans lack clarity and any details, which differentiate them from that of the present administration.There is more to politics than business-talk.
UPDATE : 9:38 PM
Increasing military budget while cutting out basic services for healthcare doesnt make sense ? And balancing the budget in 10 years seems like a pipe-dream.
Romney is evading questions, and not answering them directly.
UPDATE : 9:41
Romney seems stuck on increasing military spending.
Obama :" Gov. Romney doesnt seem to know how the military does work. We have fewer horses and bayonets than we did during 1916." A classic.
UPDATE : 9:45 PM
On Iran and Israel
Obama - "I will stand with Israel if it is attacked. This week we will carry out the largest military operation so far. So far the strongest sanctions on Iran have been put into place".
This seems about right, and though I am not a proponent of sanctions ( which seem to have only 30% rate of success) is debatable. Nevertheless from an American stand-point the president has done all he could to keep Iran from a nuclear capability.
Romney - " We will stand with Israel, even militarily. There is no question that nuclear capable Iran is unacceptable to us".
The question both havent answered is : why does no one ask whether a nuclear Israel is acceptable to all ? It is an open secret that Israel is armed with nuclear weapons.
This seems to be the greatest taboo, which seems off the table too !
UPDATE : 9:52 PM
On a lighter note, the problem with Iran is here :
Good job by President Ibama for calling out Romney on his dilly-dallying about Iran.
Why is Romney bending over backwards to appease Israel ?
UPDATE : 10:00 PM
Romney seems worried about Jihadists, but doesnt seem to recognize that bombing countries only creates more of them. Iraq, Afghanistan are examples before us. His policies clearly seem inclined towards aggression and more war-mongering.
He is leaning towards Obama's soft-power approach. This man is all over the place.
UPDATE : 10:02 PM
Here is why the US should move out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and not get involved in any more wars. Romney should read this book and pay less attention to war-mongering. Wars create more terrorists.
This is true for Afghanistan, Iraq and other conflict zones.
Has Romney ever visited Pakistan ? He doesnt sound authentic when he talks about Haqqani network and "nation building" in the country. His "bench-marks" for using aid also sound flaky.
UPDATE : 10:10 PM
Problem of continuing in Afghanistan and the failed American experiments in the country, since the 1950s', in this amazing book by Rajiv Chandrashekaran of Washington Post.
Romney includes the changes in Middle East in his description of "Islamic extremism". This is dangerous, and paints all Muslims as extermists. Not sure he understands that his language is so loaded with stereotypes.
UPDATE : 10: 15 PM
On China :
Obama - A practical take on how China needs to follow all the rules applicable to others in trade. "We had a tyre case where they were flooding cheap tyres. Gov. Romney criticised me for being too tough".
Romney - "Their interests are the same as ours - stability . 20 mn people coming out of farms. We dont have to be adversaries". His words dont match what he has been saying so far, in the campaign. Doesnt seem like like the language one uses for an "ally". He needs to also look at the balance of payments before making such loose-talk.
UPDATE : 10: 27 PM
What will bring the US out of the financial mess that it finds itself ?
Obama : "We have made a lot of progress in four years. Romney's vision will take us back by a few more years. We need to have the best education system, and control our energies". Focus on research and technology is key.
It looks like the focus is on domestic economic issues, rather than global problems.
Romney : " I want to see peace and also we have the opportunity to have peace, to ensure everyone's future is secure".
The comparison with Greece seems a bit of an exaggeration. Not sure how he plans to get folks to get off food-stamps and get them "good jobs".
His vision harks back to American exceptionalism, which seems myopic at best and skewed at worst.