President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney met tonight in the final debate of the 2012 campaign to discuss foreign policy. By any objective standard, Americas stature in the world has declined over recent years, as has the safety and security of many people around the world.
Despite the death of Osama bin Laden, terrorism is still flourishing, with the September 11 death of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, in Libya, and an attempt to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank of New York last week.
The series of questions from Bob Schieffer to the presidential candidates illustrated the weakness of America today. Few if any of the questions celebrated American triumphs. Most revealed anxieties about American defeats. For another viewpoint on the debate read "European crisis doesnt merit a word at debate."
Obama could have offered many different responses to defend his administrations handling of foreign policy. He could have said that he was dealt a difficult hand, and did the best he could under the circumstances, as he has said about the economy.
He could have said that the American public doesnt know how bad things were, and really are, and hes made remarkable progress. Trust him — the details are classified.
He could have said that hes focused most of his energies on domestic policy such as passing a new health care bill, but hell do better next time.
Obama could have made any number of defenses of his foreign policy, but time after time he chose not to defend his policies. Instead he attacked Romney for past statements he had made, as if Romney were in any way responsible for the failures of American policy over the past four years.
But Obama has been responsible for foreign policy for four years and has a lengthy record to defend. The most that he could defend was success in process if not results. The world may not be a safer place for America or Americans, but Obama claims success in getting allies to join sanctions against Iran and other multinational purposes.
Yet success in herding international diplomats has yielded few if any tangible benefits for Americans.
Romney has never led foreign policy, and therefore could have spent the evening attacking the presidents record, dismal as it is. Perhaps the asymmetry is unfair. Romney made many accurate observations about the failure of American policy. That did not take any great intellect. Any American could have done the same.
In response to these criticisms, Obama occasionally drifted into sarcasm, as when he attempted to defend his policy of a diminished Navy. Obama suggested that, in modern warfare, it is inappropriate to compare the number of ships today with the number in 1916.
Obama said, "But I think Governor Romney maybe hasnt spent enough time looking at how our military works. You — you mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our militarys changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines."
However, Obama missed the broader point. Americas military might is diminished no matter how you count it. China is investing in more aircraft carriers and more naval ships not because they are irrelevant, but precisely because they are all too relevant.
Obama insisted that "The budget that were talking about is not reducing our military spending. Its maintaining it." But Table S-5 of the White House Office of Management Mid-Session Review, " Proposed Budget By Category ," shows that appropriated security programs are set to drop from $830 billion in fiscal year 2012 to $764 billion in fiscal year 2016, the last year of the next presidents term. Thats a decline of 8%.
Attacking Romney does not strengthen Obama. It belittles the office of the president. It robs America of the focus and energy to face the challenges we face and enriches no one but our enemies.
The real foreign policy debacle of America is to be found not abroad but here at home. The weakness of the American economy reinforces our weakness abroad. An economically weak America recedes from a dangerous world filled with hate-filled terrorists; an economically vibrant America can champion American ideals globally.
Speaking of China, Romney said, "They — they look at our — our decision to — to cut back on our military capabilities — a trillion dollars. The secretary of defense called these trillion dollars of cuts to our military devastating…. They look at Americas commitments around the world and they see whats happening and they say, well, OK, is America going to be strong?"
Americans can be sure that other countries, both friends and enemies, are watching too, and asking whether we will be strong. Even though Obama never addressed the links between the weak economy and weak foreign policy, America needs strong economic leadership both at home and abroad.
Original Source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/obamas-attacks-on-romney-belittle-presidency-2012-10-23