Debate Results: Obama Won the Foreign Policy Debate, But Just Barely


It is hard to say who won this debate. Both Obama and Romney were talking about foreign policy, but not really talking about foreign policy. Again, the economy and the education were on the agenda more often than not, as were the rehearsed-to-death bits about the auto industry. Effectively, more or less the same campaign lines took shape here. Obama said Romney was all over the map on every issue – and this is true if one pays attention to what Mittens has been saying that last year of campaigning. Romney has been saying that Obama’s last 4 years have produced no change – the jobless are still jobless and the debt is larger than ever – also true. Ceteris paribus, we’re right back where we started in 2008.

So, foreign policy.

On Israel: Obama reiterated the successful relationship is still in place, from his visit as a candidate (and not doing the fundraiser thing, nice touch), financing Iron Dome and confirming that America stands with Israel. Romney just kind of confirmed with Obama said.

On Iran: An attack on Israel is a red line for America, Obama said. Allowing Iran to militarize nuclear capability is not an option – they have nuclear capability already. Enforcing and tightening the sanctions regime until they drop their nuclear program; this is the condition for talks. Keep doing what we’re doing and a military strike is a last resort. An Israeli attack? Can’t happen without us knowing before. Romney  said the same thing.

On America’s role in the world: freedom, peace, democracy, the standard mythology is replayed by same presidential candidate. Romney  sees America slipping, an apologetic Obama who never went to Israel, a China and Russia who are exhibiting free will (cue: dramatic gasp!) and a Syria that we cannot affect. President Obama said we are working with international legitimation, the drone campaign is getting rid of terrorists, despite the civilian costs, as unfortunate as they are, and America is more respected in global eyes – I think this narrative is more believable, despite the problems with it; such as, Obama’s foreign policy remains rather hawkish despite these improvements. More work needs to be done.

Arab Spring: Obama – we need to continue empowering democratic processes and encouraging moderate insurgents in Syria. Here, I just have to ask, has anyone EVER heard of a MODERATE insurgent? History knows no such species. Sounds nice, but the reality is, we are financing terrorism from Syria’s point of view. Both Obama and Romney said the same thing here, but numerous problems remain. There is no criteria on what moderate insurgents are, what the transition looks like, or even considering China, Russia and Iran’s interests and their influence.

China: can be a partner, but is also a cheater. Obama said he has achieved results for America in developing the trade relationship with China. Romney couldn’t answer to the allegation that he was a net job exporter, so we can assume that the evidence supports the charge. His policies are the same as Obama’s, but he lost that round.

OVERALL VERDICT: There was no clear winner here, because the two candidates collapsed into essentially the same person. If anyone has an edge, it would be Obama, mostly because he called out Romney on his weak spots: being all over the map, exporting jobs and mostly agreeing. In his bid to show as a moderate, Mitt became Obama’s spokesperson. Debate, therefore, goes to Obama.

Regardless of who you vote, however, American foreign policy, fundamentally, will not change.

For complete debate analysis from Georgi Ivanov, see here