In the News – 2012
Panel Calls for Vision in Foreign Policy Debate
The presidential candidates needed to lay out a vision for the United States' role in the world over the next four years during the third presidential debate, according to a panel of respected journalists hosted by GW's Elliott School and School of Media and Public Affairs earlier Monday evening.
"I hope to hear a better articulation — that people can examine and ask questions about — of the proper projection of American power around the world. The United States is not the superpower that it was, and we don't have the money, will, or time to manage as many foreign policy crises as we did even 10 years ago," said Anne Gearan, national security correspondent with The Washington Post.
Ms. Gearan highlighted policy similarities between the candidates, predicting that despite tough talk on Iran, neither Governor Romney nor President Obama would go so far as to specifically mention "regime change" during the debate.
Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent for NBC News, echoed Ms. Gearan's call for a better articulation of the candidates' foreign-policy visions. He predicted that Governor Romney would downplay Libya, following his missteps on the subject in a previous debate.
Moderated by Doug Wilson, former senior Pentagon spokesman and distinguished fellow at the School of Media and Public Affairs, and held immediately preceding the debate, the panel said that the Middle East — Libya, Syria, Iran, and Afghanistan — would dominate the discussion Monday night.
Editor of Foreign Policy Susan Glasser noted that foreign policy, however, has largely been a "non-issue" throughout the campaign, with both candidates forgoing policy nuance for "alpha male chest-bumping" and "sloganeering." This strategy, she said, allows the candidates to avoid specific details that could advocate an active U.S. global posture among war-weary voters and also obscures the candidates' various foreign policy similarities.
The panel also offered their thoughts on what topics they would like to see the candidates discuss but did not think would arise during the 90-minute discussion.
Noah Shachtman, contributing editor to Wired magazine, hoped for a discussion about the U.S. use of drone strikes. "This idea that we don't have the stomach for adventure is not true. We seem to have all sorts of stomach for these 'flying death robots'. We're involved in Libya, Yemen, Somalia. We're about to start sending drones to Mali — stay tuned. The crazy part is that we seem to not have the stomach for these things, but are getting into more and more of them."
Ms. Gearan predicted little talk about the Europe's looming financial crisis. "It's one of those complicated, political economy stories that nobody can really follow — what is the ECB, what does it mean for the world? That being said, no one has even made an effort to connect it. This is the most profound crisis to rock our closest partners in the world, arguably since the end of the Cold War."
Following the debate, Mr. Wilson and Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs, offered a brief analysis for the 150 students in the audience, calling the showdown "close" but, echoing the panel's earlier remarks, criticizing the candidates for not offering a clearer vision of U.S. power abroad.
"I would give it narrowly to Obama," said Mr. Sesno, "but Romney did what he needed to do."