Foreign policy debate leaves unanswered questions

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The Presidential foreign policy debate focused on issues that are key to American prosperity. But neither candidate explained very clearly how they are going to solve problems in new ways.

Instead, both candidates have a tendency to repeat themselves. Obama brought up that Romney thought his action to stop the flood of cheap Chinese tires was protectionist ,as he did in the last debate.

Romney emphasised that he would like to “crack down” on China and label them a currency manipulator. As he has in the past.

This time around Romney’s stance on China seemed a bit more contradictory than in the second debate. He started out with a friendly tone.

“And so we can be a partner with China. We don’t have to be an adversary in any way, shape or form. We can work with them. We can collaborate with them if they’re willing to be responsible,” he said.

But then he went on to outline a plan to punish China.

“On day one, I will label China a currency manipulator, which will allow me as president to be able to put in place, if necessary, tariffs where I believe that they are taking unfair advantage of our manufacturers,” he said.

This really didn’t make much sense to me.

The more Romney talks tough on China the less he sounds diplomatic and in my mind it will be harder for him to foster change. To get what you want, it helps to show the other party how your idea also benefits them. I think Romney’s stance on China would lean much more toward mutual prosperity with regard to China if he was the incombant.

Even though Obama repeated rhetoric similar to Romney’s regarding China, A column from Policymic  argues China is probably hoping Obama will win this election, simply because they are more familiar with his policies. I tend to agree that would make sense.

Iran was another huge issue. As Hannah pointed out in her post, both candidates seemed to agree that sanctions were the best avenue in encouraging regime change.

The Atlantic took a look at the sanctions in Iran this month and found that they are causing huge problems for the middle class. Inflation and unemployment are both rising dramatically as would be expected. But the Atlantic doubts that the suffering of the Iranian people is worth the change or that change will happen. One of the extreme cases would be a civil war in Iran. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.

When it comes to preventing the recruitment of terrorists, I agreed with Romney’s stance. (I’m fairly sure Obama would concur with the plan too.) To create society that will reject terrorism as a solution there must be economic development, better education, gender equality and rule of law.

However, the Middle East Policy Council wrote a paper addressing why central government was failing in Afghanistan.  Local Afghan communities expect to govern themselves and make their own decisions. How does one country in deep debt, facilitate the development of another country’s education system and rule of law so that it will be culturally. Is that even a role for the U.S. to play? Encouraging stability in Afghanistan will certainly come with a price tag and I doubt the country’s needs will end in 2014. But how can we send “targeted” aid?

In general, I hope both candidates defer heavily to their advisors and people who are culturally aware of the best solution for each place and issue.

This was the foreign policy mess Obama walked into in 2009. As you can see, the Middle East has gotten even more complicated.