Last week, President Obama and Governor Romney engaged in a foreign policy debate that left many on the right spinning and many on the left proud of President Obama’s command of the details. President Obama undoubtedly won that debate. He proved that he was the Commander-in-Chief and that his political realist approach to foreign policy is appropriate.
If I had to choose between Obama’s political realism and Romney’s neoconservatism, I would chose political realism. Political realists believe that war is always the last option. Diplomacy and multilateralism should be used when attempting to solve international crises. This is certainly better than Mitt Romney’s neoconservative approach to foreign policy. Neoconservatives, in a nutshell, want to be everywhere at every moment under the pretense that we, as Americans, need to bring our values to other places. At least, that is what they tell people.
Both political realist and neoconservatives have ulterior motives. What they really want to do is protect American economic interests in other countries. I will return to this point later.
The debate on Monday was frightening because Governor Romney spent the entire time agreeing with President Obama and then contradicting himself in the same sentence. It was bizarre and incredibly frustrating to watch.
When Bob Schieffer asked Governor Romney that weak question about drone warfare, Governor Romney not only agreed with the Obama administration's questionable use of drones, but then said we are going to have to do more than the drones to move the world away from terror and Islamic extremism.
I get it. American foreign policy is about flexing our muscles to give the impression that we are doing our best to keep American civilians safe and the rest of the world safe as well. However, drone strikes do the opposite of that.
Drones are appealing because they are not manned and can be operated from a separate country, safely away from the site of the strike. There is no loss of life on the American side. However, we need to remember that the drone strikes are also killing people and often times they kill innocent people by accident. This makes people angry and fuels hate against Americans in the country where the drones are being used.
I wish drones were the only criticisms that I had of both major party candidates' foreign policies, but that is really just the tip of the iceberg.
During the debate, there was no conversation about the European debt crisis. Whatever happens in the Euro-zone is going to have a tremendous impact on our economy. This is a foreign policy issue because of how interconnected our economy is with the economies of other countries.
What about climate change? Climate change is closely tied to our foreign policy. Remember when I said that the political realist's and neoconservative's ulterior motive is to secure American economic interests? One of these interests is oil.
Oil requires deep drilling into the earth’s surface. Many ecosystems are negatively affected because of the noise pollution (caused by the process of detecting oil), oil spills and the pollution of water with various carcinogens. These harmful effects are not limited to animals. Oil drilling has negative consequences for humans as well. As more and more humans need some form of energy to live a productive life, oil is going to become a competitive resource coming from politically unstable countries.
Many other countries have begun to take the necessary steps to reduce the usage of dirty energy and increase investments in clean energy sources. We have begun to invest in renewable energy sources but we are not taking climate change seriously enough and Hurricane Sandy is evidence of this fact.
Another issue missing from the debate was the war on drugs. This is both a domestic issue and a foreign policy issue. The ongoing conflict in Mexico between the government and their drug cartels has had a serious impact on the United States. There have been drug cartels that have crossed over the border in the United States. We are spending a lot of money to keep the National Guard on the ground around the Mexican-United States border to keep drugs from entering into the United States. Our future fighting the failed war on drugs needs to be reevaluated.
We have many issues domestically that need serious consideration and careful strategizing and execution. Many of these domestic issues are closely linked to our foreign policy.
But you wouldn’t have known that watching the third debate.