Presidential Debate Tonight: Obama and Romney Need to Provide In Depth Plan for Syria


Tonight is the final presidential debate and it will be focused on foreign policy. One of the topics will be Syria and the role of the United States in working towards a resolution of the conflict. With so much of the world focused on potential resolutions for the Syrian conflict, it is absolutely vital that both candidates tonight not only explain their position, but also explain why their proposed action is the best possible course to take.

In the previous presidential debates, Syria iswas only only mentioned in passing. The most in-depth analysis so far has appeared induring the vice-presidential debate, and even that iswas cursory at best. Vice President Biden focused on the current administration’s support of non-military actions and cooperation with the United Nations. Congressman Ryan only stated that the Romney-Ryan ticket would not be going through the United Nations.  Other than the cooperation and the provision of humanitarian aid, no other courses of action were mentioned or explained.

The conflict in Syria has claimed at least 30,000 lives.  If the massive death toll is not a sufficient enough to create the impetus for action, then outside of the simple respect for human life and dignity should be; this is called, there is the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).  R2P has been generally accepted by the international community and ist focuses on the Sstate’s responsibility to protect their own populations from grave crimes as well as the responsibility of the international community to assist Sstates in that responsibility and to take the necessary action to protect populations. It is simply too late for the international community to focus on the prevention of escalation. The current status of the conflict requires intervention beyond words that express regret and disgust with the loss of life and destruction of a country. This destruction alone is reason enough to act.

The role of the candidates in the debate tonight is to explain what “acting” means and what type of force, if any, it entails. They must also take into account the repercussions of the action in terms of loss of life, regional spillover, the political will of the American people to engage militarily, and the willingness of other nations to support military action. In answering the Syria question, the successful candidate will be able to combine U.S. interests with a nuanced understanding of regional history and politics, along with a respect for human rights, into an answer that is succinct yet powerful.  

Ultimately, the audience for the debates is all American people and the successful candidate will be able to present their position in a simple and understandable way. This does not mean, however, that the answers need to devoid of substance. Most of us will be looking for more in depth responses; and simply saying “I have a plan” is not good enough.