The Foreign Policy Debate: Thoughts of an interested Indian

The USA is indispensable to the world. There must be no doubt about this. The US of A plays a role in the world which no one else does, or even can play. The presence of their military in many parts of the globe serves to keep many places secure, all the way from the Korean border to shipping lanes across the world. Not to mention, of course, their presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. So naturally, any debate among the two presidential candidates on foreign policy is going to make sense to follow.

There’s almost nothing to be gained by recapping what the candidates said. Their arguments have been heard time and again, and except for the occasional foray into the Economy and domestic affairs, the points said were mostly repeats. No candidate pulled anything new out of the bag, nor was he expected to. Today was more of an indicator of the way the candidates presented themselves to the people, and more importantly, how well they were able to get their points across and catch the other off-guard.

The president was good. He did not have the brilliance and flair of a Shakespearean orator, dazzling his audience, but then again, this was not a play. He was clear, firm and to the point. The debate was on foreign policy, and the president seemed to know that. When asked about Libya, he talked about Libya, when asked about Syria, he remained on Syria, and so on. His points were consistent. He made frequent jabs at Romney, but I was a bit disappointed that Romney’s gaffes were referred to only obliquely. Overdoing it would have been harmful for the president, yes, but maybe a reference or two to Britain and the Olympics might have been fun.

Governor Romney, on the other hand, was lacklustre. Maybe I’m just biased, but he seemed pretty out of his depth today. He would try to drag the debate back towards the economy and even mentioned his 5 points for the umpteenth time today. God. It’s almost as if he’s got nothing else to say. Also, his stance on the happenings on Libya is… misguided? Weird? I don’t know what to think of it, but understanding intelligence is something a president should be able to do. From what I know of intelligence, it comes in bits and pieces, ambiguous and amorphous. A good commander-in-chief should know that, understand that, and be able to tell his people the answers as his intelligence community gives them to him. Now maybe President Obama’s team did give out some of his team’s conclusions prematurely or maybe he had no clear picture, but Mitt Romney’s stance on the issue seems solely to gain political capital.

Most of what Romney said today seemed to be badly researched out and not really thought about. His words on everything, from Israel to China were nothing special, to say the least. His bit about branding China a currency manipulator, for instance, was laughable. He said that China sells a lot to the US while the US exports very little to it. Now maybe I missed a bit there or something, but it seemed that what he meant was, ‘China better beware of running afoul of us. We are their biggest market. If we closed up, they’d be screwed.’

Now, maybe I’m making inferences here, for he also went on to say that he wished to work with China as a partner (but only if they play by the same rules, mind you), but his implication makes little sense. The US, as any sensible person can tell, would be just as screwed as China. It would pretty much be like two people shooting themselves point blank at the same time. These two countries need each other to survive. China needs the US to remain a net importer of Chinese goods. The dollar reserve held by China is as much a liability as an asset. And no, I’m not in the mood to go into much detail regarding this last statement I just made.

Coming to Pakistan and drone warfare. While I’m not surprised not much time was given to it, I am disappointed that both candidates remained firm in their unquestioning dedication to the ‘firm’ alliance they have with Pakistan. From harbouring Bin Laden to (in)discreetly cultivating militant groups, Pakistan has been the most belligerent ally the US has. In fact, I believe that the failure of the Americans to discipline the Pakistanis has seen their respect drop in many eyes, especially here in India.

Drones remain the best way to solve many military problems, and I’m glad that Romney made no gaffes here by speaking out against them or something. That would have been cringe-worthy, I think. Despite what many people and human-rights groups say, drones are the best alternative to conventional warfare we have. Targeted assassinations are better than untargeted ones. The only problem I see is that if a drone crashes, someone could reverse-engineer it and it would become a potent weapon in the hands of someone we’d rather not see use it. But that’s true of almost anything, I believe.

And lastly, the Middle East. I’m plain disappointed that the two-state solution was not discussed at all. I understand the pressing need of the candidates to declare support for Israel, but not even a single mention of the two state solution? However, their words on Iran were pretty OK, in my book. The sanctions are pretty effective, and Romney’s accusation that the Obama administration could have done more sooner might be true. Not that I’m saying it is, but that it might be.

Also, no mention of Japan or Korea? Come on, candidates, I know they’re not really election issues, but just touching upon them might have been good. America’s pivoting to the east, remember?

So who would be better for India? The thing is, I don’t know. I don’t really think it matters anyway. India’s not exactly taking American jobs the way China is, nor does it pose any threat. I doubt any candidate really cares a lot about India-America relations the way he does about Sino-American relations. So it’s an easy one for us. Sit back and relax as the elections pan out, and then clap for the guy who wins.

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2 thoughts on “The Foreign Policy Debate: Thoughts of an interested Indian

  1. I remember the part where Romney says “America does not dictate nations but frees nations from dictators.” 5 min later Romney starts to dictate what Iran should do about its nuclear program, what China should do about its economy ect.. Or the part where Romney says “he will indict Ahmadinejad for Genocide.” He seems to have forgotten that the US did not ratify nor sign the Rome statute of the ICC that can actually put people on trial for genocide.

    1. Romney is uninformed, and comes across as such. I have a feeling that he’s never really sat down to think about foreign policy before commencing his campaign, or even after that.

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