Tonight at 9pm at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, Barack Obama will face off against Mitt Romney in the final debate before the election. The topic of tonight’s debate will be foreign policy, a topic which will likely not put the President on the defensive, as he often was in the prior two debates. His record on this subject will at least appear to be stronger than his record on the economy and the deficit which were the main topics of the previous debates.
Of course that won’t stop Romney from criticizing the President’s record on foreign policy. Since his inauguration, republicans have tried to characterize the President as being a weak leader on the world stage. When Obama was elected, there was a wide perception that he was a peace candidate who would attempt to reverse the course of the Bush administration and change America’s perception in the world. In some ways, Obama did live up to this moniker. He has attempted to reset America’s relationship with Russia which had grown sour during the Bush years. Most significantly, he ended the war in Iraq and thus far has not intervened unilaterally despite the great number of uprisings throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa. One can only imagine how the Bush administration would have reacted to such opportunities for intervention.
But despite what he’s done to reverse course, he has also continued a number of Bush era policies that have alienated many of his supporters on both the right and left. He has yet to keep his promise to close Guantanamo Bay and he has legitimated and even expanded on the many infringements on civil liberties passed through the Patriot Act in the name of national defense. He escalated the war in Afghanistan, a war which is now opposed by a vast majority of the population. He has also escalated the drone war taking place in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Persian Gulf and Northern Africa. There has been no reconciliation between the United States and the leftist governments of Latin America. The Cuban embargo remains in place despite it’s being overwhelmingly opposed in the United States.
As a whole, Obama has legitimated many of the moral reprehensible policies of his predecessor and has done little to shake off the widely held belief that the United States has no respect for international law. He is certainly not a “Peace Candidate” in the mold of the late George McGovern or even of Jimmy Carter who recently wrote a scathing op-ed piece criticizing America’s disdain for human rights
The topics likely to be discussed tonight are likely to include the attack on Benghazi, how to end the war in Afghanistan, trade relations with China, Iran’s nuclear program and relations with Israel. My prediction is that on each of these issues, Romney will criticize Obama’s alleged weakness of leadership and unwillingness to project US power. Obama will respond with his record and in the end the pacifists and non-interventionists in the audience will realize there are no peace candidates participating in this debate.
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Update: 8:55 PM Which will have the most viewers? The NLCS Game 7, The Debate or Monday Night Football? I'd like to say the debate or the baseball game but my guess is the football game.
Update: 9:05 PM Obama will be glad to get this question out of the way first.
Update 9:09 PM Romney makes out the election of Mohammad Morsi in Egypt to be a negative thing that Obama presumably had control over. Translation: Democracy is only democracy if we approve of who you elect.
Update 9:16 PM They will debate about having residual troops in Iraq but they won't debate about the bases we have in the Persian Gulf.
Update 9:27 PM Obama: I supported Mubarak, before I didn't.
Update 9:35 PM How did this turn into a debate about the economy? And Romney is back on his 5 point plan again with once again no specifics. What a joke.
Update 9:39 PM This moderator is doing worse than Jim Lehrer. Keep these delinquents focussed on foreign policy
Update 9:49 PM Romney can't criticize Obama on Iran's nuclear program without declaring war during the debate.
Update 9:51 PM Military action against Iran is dangerous. They have the capability of devastating Israel which in itself would be terrible and it would also draw us into another costly war.
Update 9:53 PM It's ridiculous that Romney just put Kim Jong Il and Hugo Chavez in the same category.
Update 9:57 PM Romney blames Obama for every problem in the Middle East but the policies he prescribes would only exacerbate those problems. Our presence and intervention in the region are the causes of the growth in anti-Americanism and Islamic extremism.
Update 10:05 PM Pakistan will be destabilized if we keep killing civilians in drone attacks in their territory. Any government that cannot protect it's people from foreign attacks will not be stable domestically.
Update 10:10 PM This debate is heavy on "whats" but light on "hows"
Update 10:12 PM The moderator should have asked if either candidate was worried about blowback from the drone strikes. Or asked if they thought it might actually be undermining our national security by creating more enemies than it destroys. At least they admitted to having the same policy on this issue.
Update 10:27 PM Neither candidate is proposing to fundamentally change trade policies and under both, our jobs will ship to countries without labor laws or environmental laws. Romney wants us to plunge into the race to the bottom to the joy of transnational corporations. Obama has not shown any willingness to renegotiate these agreements like NAFTA.
In conclusion, it is silly for the media to pick winners and losers as I am seeing on NBC and I'm sure can be seen on the other networks. Their job is to point out the contradictions and the differences. On Afghanistan, Romney flip-flopped. He previously said that he would be flexible about withdrawal, depending on what the top generals recommended. Today, he said out by 2014 no matter what. On Iran, both would go to war before allowing it to have a nuclear weapon. On Syria, Obama's record speaks for itself, Romney claims to want to be more aggressive and presumably would work towards arming the rebels. Both support drone warfare. Romney claims to be an admirer of Henry Kissinger but I doubt Kissinger would support his confrontational stance on Russia. There was no discussion about relations with Latin America. Romney's calls on increasing military spending to the extent he proposes will explode the deficit as Obama contends. Perhaps the best moment was Obama's humorous way of pointing out the absurdity of Romney's policy. "We also have fewer horses and bayonetts". Overall, I wish I could see Gary Johnson, Rocky Anderson or Jill Stein debate these guys, then there would have been much more substance and some refreshing opinions.