Just one more debate. On Monday night, October 22, Bob Schieffer, President Obama, and Governor Romney will treat 60+ million Americans to a discussion on American foreign policy. The candidates are going to share their visions for managing the most complex global environment in U.S. history. So far, foreign policy analysis in the debates has been dominated by partisan responses to the terrorist attack on American diplomatic personnel in Libya. Many questions about other serious foreign policy issues remain unaddressed or underspecified.
These underwhelming foreign policy debate performances spurred collaborative discussion among the Editorial Board of the National Strategy Forum to recalibrate the October 22 debate to achieve sharper policy distinctions. I am a member of the NSF Editorial Board. The National Strategy Forum is a national security think tank based in Chicago. Since 1983, we have been dedicated to non-partisan public education and research on U.S. national strategy and national security policy. Its leadership and members pride themselves in asking the right questions, providing options, and focusing on strategy rather than tactics.
In that spirit, the National Strategy Forum Editorial Board proposes ten hard-hitting questions that moderator Bob Schieffer should ask the candidates on October 22nd:
1. Iran and Israel: Economic sanctions have not halted Iran's nuclear enrichment program, and Israel is increasingly concerned about the existential threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon. You have both identified preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon as a "red line". How close do you think we are to this "red line"?
2. Conflict in Syria: You both favor the Assad regime leaving power. Who and what takes its place, and what is the effect on U.S. strategic interests in the region?
3. The Arab Spring: New governments have arisen as a result of this revolutionary process. Which of the new governments comes close to reflecting the model of democratic governance that the U.S. favors in the Middle East, and how should the U.S. engage these new governments?
4. Afghanistan: Joint U.S.-NATO withdrawals are scheduled for completion by 2014. What is your military commitment to Afghanistan after the U.S. and NATO withdrawal?
5. China and the Asia-Pacific: President Obama's administration promoted the Strategic Pivot to Asia in 2011, aimed at a reshuffling U.S. military, economic, and foreign policy assets towards the Asia-Pacific region. At a time when other key regions in the world -- particularly the Mediterranean and the Middle East -- are "on fire," was it wise to publicize this Pivot so widely?
6. International Law of the Sea: Tensions between China, Japan, and ASEAN are at a high over maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas. Recent offshore gas discoveries by Cyprus and Israel promise to enhance Europe's energy security, but Turkish hostility towards Israel and its continuing occupation of Cyprus threaten to prevent full realization of this energy potential. How would you defuse such maritime disputes, and can this be done without the ratification of the International Law of the Sea Convention?
7. Russia: President Obama's "re-set" efforts towards Russia were not reciprocated. Vladimir Putin continues to pursue an anti-American foreign policy agenda, creating significant headwind for U.S. foreign policy objectives around the globe. What is your strategy for the American relationship with Russia?
8. Mexico: This country is struggling to assert the rule of law. U.S. demand for drugs and the cross-border wage discrepancy are major drivers of drug-related violence and illegal immigration from Mexico. What will be your foreign policy objective regarding Mexico, a country critical to U.S. homeland security?
9. Sequestration: Diplomacy without teeth is useless. Much has been made of the scheduled defense cuts at the end of this year. What kind of national defense do you believe we can afford, and how does your vision affect America's ability to project power abroad?
10. International Organizations: The U.S. has a powerful voice in international financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank. Would you use that influence to ensure economic stability and viability of the euro zone?
The answers to these questions, and others that have been part of the debates, will shape our world for years to come. The American people -- indeed the world -- deserve more than rote answers on foreign policy visions or rehashed party lines of Ambassador Stevens' killing. The National Strategy Forum has, once again, asked the right questions. Now let's hope we can get some clear answers.
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