Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How the Obama-Romney Foreign Policy Debate Could Determine the Election

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How the Obama-Romney Foreign Policy Debate Could Determine the Election

Article excerpt

How important is Monday nights foreign policy debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? The way things stand right now, it could determine the outcome on Election Day.

Nobody would have predicted that just a few weeks ago. But with Mr. Romneys late-in-the-day insurgency in the polls, the race has become dead even. And momentum what George H. W. Bush called the Big Mo seems to be on Romneys side.

Two main reasons:

First, Romney clearly won the first debate against President Obama, who even jokes now about the nice long nap I had in the first debate. In their second set-to, Obama was much more engaged, even animated. But aside from Romneys gaffe about binders full of women, the challenger pretty much held his own against the incumbent president.

Second, most voting Americans may worry about the economy first, but foreign policy and national security have become much more important as well. Israels security, Irans nuclear program, Chinas currency, violent revolution in Syria, and certainly Libya since the US ambassador was killed in a terrorist attack there all have become major campaign issues and therefore debating points.

Also, while Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan have no foreign policy experience, and that can be seen as a weakness in the GOP ticket, Obama has a mixed record to defend.

Think you know the Middle East? Take our geography quiz.

You can be sure Romney will try to paint that as adding up to weakness and indecision leading from behind is sure to be brought up not to mention what he claims is a certain distancing from Israel.

Unfortunately, this presidents policies have not been equal to our best examples of world leadership. And nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East, Romney said in his speech at the Virginia Military Institute earlier this month. When we look at the Middle East today, with Iran closer than ever to nuclear weapons capability, with the conflict in Syria threatening to destabilize the region and with violent extremists on the march, and with an American ambassador and three others dead likely at the hands of al- Qaida affiliates its clear that the risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when the president took office.

The terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya which came on the anniversary of 9/11 at a time when much of the region was in turmoil over a crude anti-Islam YouTube video made in the United States is particularly troublesome for Obama.

Washington Post foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius reports that initial CIA talking points, provided by a senior US intelligence official, supported UN Ambassador Susan Rices early contention that the attack in Benghazi was tied to protests against the YouTube video.

But Republicans in Congress (and Romney) have jumped all over the Obama administrations subsequent remarks on the episode, particularly statements regarding terrorism and terrorists. …

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