The Final Presidential Debate: Foreign Policy

Foreign policy magazine has a fun quiz about the third debate. They give 15 statements, and the challenge is to correctly match the statement to the man who said it. What makes the quiz challenging is what made the debate challenging–there seemed to be very little contrast between the two candidates.

On China, both candidates agreed that there’s potential for partnership but that China has to stop cheating on trade/economics. Both emphasized that the US relationship with China will depend in part on the US’s ability to resolve its domestic economic problems.

On Afghanistan and Pakistan, Romney pretty much defended Obama’s policies, praising the surge, advocating for the 2014 transition deadline in Afghanistan, and supporting the use of drones.

On Iran, both candidates talked about more sanctions and asserted that the nation needs to be stopped from getting a nuclear bomb.

Perhaps one of the more interesting turns of the debate was Romney’s peace-talk, a subject he seemed to emphasize throughout the debate:

“[We want] to make sure the world is peaceful. We want a peaceful planet…  I want to see peace… We don’t want another Iraq. We don’t want another Afghanistan.” [Military action is] “the last resort. It is something one would only, only consider if all of the other avenues had been tried to their full extent.”

Points against Romney: raising defense spending seems like it’s not a great solution for a president who wants to cut spending. His argument essentially seemed to be that in order to avoid war, America needs to appear strong. In order to appear strong, it needs to continue spending on military. I suppose that while intangible qualities such as “appearance of strength” are important for good foreign policy, I’m not entirely convinced that the benefits of having more military outweigh the economic costs of more spending. Especially when those additional economic costs could weaken our foreign policy with China. Also, regarding China, I’m not sure I understand how calling them a ‘currency manipulator’ will help the partnership…

Points against Obama: I actually thought he did pretty good this debate and can’t really think of anything that I found lacking in his performance. He made some witty zings and did a good job of putting Romney on the defense. I have little else to say because the contrasts struck me as being pretty meager in this last debate. Romney asks independent voters to see him as a moderate whose foreign policy will mirror Obama’s in many ways. Given that he hasn’t had a chance behind the wheel, it’s hard to know what he would actually do. Since it sounds like Romney’s foreign policy ideal is something similar to Obama’s, it seems that if one is voting primarily based on FP issues then one should vote for Obama. Because if this last debate is any indication, there’s really no alternative.

-Spark Jameson

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