10/22/2012 04:22 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

National Defense: Topics for Tonight's Debate

National Defense, the magazine of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), has this banner headline at this time: "New wave of global threats".

The November issue's lead article:  Top Five Threats to National Security in the Coming Decade.  

Reading that article suggests, in comparison with the uninspired question arenas for tonight's presidential debate on foreign policy, that National Defense has laid out the basis of a very appropriate question for the debate.

The National Defense Industrial Association has identified five critical national security threats for the coming debts.
  • Biological weapons;
  • Nukes;
  • Cyber-Attacks;
  • Climate Change; and
  • Trans-national Crime
Please explain your perspective on these, highlighting arenas for the American public where your precepts and approaches differ from your opponent.

Clearly, this question could lead to a serious discussion for days on end, rather than a few minutes, but it would put on the table five quite serious arenas of "foreign policy" and allow the candidates to draw out differences. (This path, of course, would risk that the candidates would continue the climate silence through addressing issues other than climate change. Cyber-threats, for example, are showing themselves as quite real issues in economic (espionage, criminality), privacy, energy security, traditional national security, etc terms that merit serious discussion in the nation and, well, by the nominees.) Thus, an even better approach would be to devote a reasonable period of the debate -- perhaps 30 minutes -- to go through this list, allowing the two candidates to address each of these five in turn.

Here is the tentative (likely) list of question arenas for tonight's debate:
  • America's role in the world;
  • Our longest war -- Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • Red Lines -- Israel and Iran
  • The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - I
  • The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - II
  • The Rise of China and Tomorrow's World
Shocking, when considering this list, it is hard to see that any of these "top five threats to national security in the coming decade" identified by the National Defense Industrial Association fit cleanly into the list. (Obviously, climate change is relevant to all of these ... as are cyber-attacks ... but they are discussions to make them fit rather than specific raising of any of the five.)

Here is what I commented when first seeing the list

Let's see:
  1. 4 of the 6 are on the Middle East. Guess we know, clearly, what is "the world". Of BRIC, only China? Nothing on Europe, Japan, Oceania, Africa, South America...
  2. Nothing here on how the world community works together (or not) on critical issues -- like how does the global community cooperate (or not...) on addressing climate change. Or, for example, what is the role of the UN, international law, and otherwise as related to the United States.
  3. What about questioning about the varying tools of power? Military, economic, cultural, diplomatic...
  4. What about trade?

Now, as per this post, I would certainly add a "5":

Why not use National Defense's identified top five threats to national security as the basis for a debate question or for a portion of the debate?

PS: I spent a very interesting day, last week, at the Navy Energy Forum, hosted by NDIA and the U.S. Navy.  I plan on writing several pieces from / based on / derived from the discussions yesterday. Hat tip to the NDIA National Defense staffer, who highlighted the "top five threats" article to me when I discussed climate change with him. Kudos to National Defense for an interesting article (which merits reading, discussion and debate) that provides the basis for a meaningful presidential debate item.

PSPS: A recent post re National Defense magazine, Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence ... NDIA edition ...

PSPSPS: There are many who have noted the crickets of climate science in the debates. Some of the excellent discussions of this include: