published Thursday, October 25th, 2012

The final debate

The last of this year’s long slog of presidential debates on Monday night was about foreign affairs, that is, the state of the world and America’s place in it. By the end, the essential question raised by the debate should have been clear: Which candidate is living in the real world we’ve all experienced the past four years? And which in a world of denial and excuse-making?

To ask such questions is to answer them. Just look around. The state of the world speaks for itself. And, as always, it is fraught with danger. And full of people who’ll deny it. And who are ready to explain that we’re doing just dandy. And about to do dandier.

In the president’s world — any resemblance to the real one may be purely circumstantial — we’re living in the best of all possible worlds, thanks to his guidance, wisdom, leadership and virtues in general. That’s good to hear, just hard to believe.

In the world his presidential challenger inhabits, along with the rest of us, this administration continues to be caught by surprise as its foreign policy unravels. This administration has been repeatedly caught unaware and unprepared for emergencies. Worse, it is unwilling to admit its mistakes, which only assures that more unpleasant surprises are in store.

If there is a single event that summarizes this administration’s unpreparedness, it is what happened just last month to the American consulate in Benghazi and what it revealed about the whole, unwinding fabric of American policy in the Middle East.

Revealing, too, is what didn’t happen after Benghazi: an honest, far-reaching evaluation of the assumptions that policy is based on. Assumptions this president has operated on from the outset of his administration, when he made a grand apology tour speaking of how America had “shown arrogance and been dismissive, even divisive” in the world. Much as the president might like to deny those words now and take refuge in denial.

In the aftermath of the attack in Benghazi, Obama may have offered some lip service in general to this country’s War on Terror when he spoke immediately after the attack on our consulate (“No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation . . .”), but he forbore to specify that the assault in Benghazi was a terrorist attack. Indeed, his administration has studiously avoided any mention of a war on terror, preferring the euphemism “Overseas Contingency Operations.”

For weeks after Benghazi, key members of this administration — like our ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice — continued to depict the violence in Benghazi as some kind of spontaneous demonstration against a stupid video ridiculing the prophet Mohammed. Why?

Not just for political reasons — to support the president’s claim in this election that he’s got the terrorists “on the run” — but for deeper, ingrained ideological reasons: It’s all America’s fault. If only we weren’t so arrogant, if only we went around the world apologizing and extending the hand of friendship, our enemies would grasp it, and all would be well. It was going to be easy, like closing Guantanamo. The late Jeane Kirkpatrick had a phrase to sum up that whole attitude: Blame America First. And once again, it has led to violence.

To quote Mitt Romney in Monday night’s debate: “The president began what I’ve called an apology tour of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America. I think they looked at that and saw weakness.”

Monday night, the president responded to such concerns mainly by attacking his opponent, delivering one zinger after another. But zingers do not a foreign policy make. Or as Mitt Romney quietly responded at one point: “Attacking me is not an agenda.” Indeed, even at this late point in this year’s presidential campaign, Barack Obama doesn’t seem to have one.

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nucanuck said...

President Obama, to his great discredit, has followed closely the foreign policy of his predecessor, George W Bush. Mitt Romney used the final debate to modify his prior shrill militance with an acquiessence to the Bush/Obama foreigh policy model. 2X0=0

We now have two candidates who both seem committed to pursuing American intervention into the internal affairs of any nation that is unwilling to become a US client state. Sustaining a modern-day imperial empire dedicated to world supremecy has not been going well for the US for the last two decades. Military power cannot long be sustained without economic power and it is now clear to see that American economic power is on the wane.

The old Soviet Union continued spending until they experienced complete and sudden collapse. Anyone who believes that the US is not approaching a similar point should do some more reading. The BRICK countries and the ASEAN countries are all beginning to by-pass the US dollar for trade. Should that trend continue and spread, the dollar's reserve status will soon end and we will be instantly POOR, VERY POOR indeed.

We desperately need a new foreign policy that reflects the economic and political realities that we face. World domination is not our future.

October 25, 2012 at 1:25 a.m.
EaTn said...

As Pres Bush would say, you should re-elect a president who has kept the country safe from terriorists for 4 years.

October 25, 2012 at 6:34 a.m.
nucanuck said...

EaTn, with the growing tide of anti-US sentiment in the Islamic world, we are probably less safe. Obama has not earned my vote and Romney is in the sway of the despicable neo-cons. We're going to experience a rough four years.

October 25, 2012 at 10:09 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

"Attacking me is not an agenda." - the Mittster

I literally laughed out loud when I heard Romney say that, and I chuckle now, to think that this editor beleives it bears repeating. Beg pardon, but last time I checked, the very nature of a debate is to attack your opponent! When someone is lying or flip-flopping so egregiously or misrepresenting the facts, as Romney did often, he is setting himself up to be "attacked," and Obama would have been stupid or sleeping at the wheel - as he was in the first debate - not to have called him out on it. What Romney said was as close to a "zinger" as he ever got, and as zingers go, it was awfully lame. It didn't even make sense.

Nucanuck, I agree with you completely. There is a good reason that Romney found little to criticize about Obama's foreign policy - because it's way too hawkish and unrealistically Bush-ian. That is one area where I have been extremely disappointed in him. At least his position on military spending is much more sensible. I think that Romney's call for such a huge increase there is insane.

October 25, 2012 at 2:29 p.m.
wialco59 said...

I was struck by the number of times the phrase, "I agree" was uttered during these debates. Both candidates have the same views when it comes to the economy, foreign policy and human rights. The continuation of such policies only serve to further isolate, impoverish and oppress the people of this country and others whom the U.S. federal government identifies as its enemies. Nothing was said about unfunded liabilities totaling over $200 trillion or the consequences of our meddling in the affairs of other nations. Hayek was right, we're traveling 100 mph down the road to serfdom without brakes. The only option for free people is to completely reject the current state and those that do its bidding in favor of a more secure option.

October 27, 2012 at 6:41 p.m.
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