Tonight’s presidential debate provides the American public an opportunity to evaluate President Obama’s foreign policy over the past four years, and to learn about Candidate Mitt Romney’s approach to foreign policy for the next four years.
There are a multitude of international issues that could be examined during the debate. Rather than attempting to tease out detailed answers regarding specific topics, Bob Schieffer, the debate moderator, may seek to establish the respective candidates’ foreign policy principles. To do so, Mr. Schieffer will need to ask questions that probe beneath a candidate’s rote answers, assess their foreign policy credentials, and draw out more fundamental strategic approaches to these issues.
The “U.S. National Security Strategy” Congressionally mandated publication was issued by the Obama Administration in 2010. It is bland and cautious, but it establishes principles that are markers of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy. These include:
- American national security strategy starts by recognizing that our strength and influence abroad begins with steps that we take at home.
- America must also build and integrate the capabilities that can advance our interests, and the interests we share with other countries and peoples.
- The burdens of a young century cannot fall on American shoulders alone – indeed, our adversaries would like to see America sap its strength by overextending its power.
- America will be steadfast in strengthening those old alliances that have served us so well, while modernizing them to meet the challenges of a new century.
- America will advocate for and advance the basic rights upon which it was built, and which peoples of every race and region have made their own.
- As a nation made up of people from every race, region, faith, and culture, America will persist in promoting peace among different peoples and believes that democracy and individual empowerment need not come at the expense of cherished identities.
The document affords Mitt Romney an opportunity to associate with, criticize, and evaluate President Obama’s national security performance. More importantly, the debate provides Mitt Romney an opportunity to express his national security principles and objectives that he would apply over the next four years.
U.S. foreign policy tends to confuse tactics with strategy. The key question is: how should foreign policy be adapted to the array of threats facing America? The National Strategy Forum Editorial Board proposes ten questions that moderator Bob Schieffer should ask the candidates on October 22nd.
To read these questions, see our new article on the Huffington Post titled “10 Questions Bob Schieffer Should Ask Obama and Romney.”
A round-up of other key articles offer additional insights for tonight’s debate. Good sources to brush up on include:
“Foreign Policy Questions for the Candidates” by the Council on Foreign Relations
“Why a Foreign Policy Debate is an Anachronism” by Richard Haass at the Council on Foreign Relations
“10 Law-Related Questions Bob Schieffer Should Ask the Candidates” by Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic
“The Politics of National Security: Debate Edition” by Matt Bennett, Mieke Eoyang, and Michelle Diggles from Third Way