Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tomorrow's foreign policy debate

I mentioned on Twitter earlier today that I'm dreading the presidential debate on foreign policy. I'm on record as hating most debates. But aside from the general format, I'm expecting the subject to make me agitated just as much. The foreign policy discourse in the US is too narrowly tailored to the middle east and terrorism. And within that discourse it's narrowly tailored to just a few point of views.

I fully expect both Obama and Romney to basically have a cockfight instead of an open debate. That's because both parties assume that you have to run foreign policy like the fiction Ronald Reagan that Republicans have created over the past 30 years. Since Reagan's term they have interpreted the end of the cold war with the style in which he conducted his foreign policy, which could often be bombastic and filled with indulgent hubris.

For Republicans since then, you either conduct foreign policy like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood or you are appeasing the enemy and making the country unsafe. And Democrats are so worried about being labeled Jimmy Carter that they conduct themselves in only slightly less hawkish ways than Republicans, in some instances (Obama's drones) even more hawkish. Then there is always the issue of Israel. Both parties bend over backwards to appease anything Israel wants. That often conflicts with our interest in helping bring some sort of stability to the middle east.

That combination leaves us with an overly aggressive and often contradictory foreign policy. And it leaves our resources so strained that we can't confront other problems throughout the rest of the world. The strain of our resources is at least one area in which there is some difference between Obama and Romney. When it comes to the military, Romney is a full blown Keynesian and believes that spending will create jobs. Thus Romney proposes a big spending increase for defense. While Obama wants to scale back the spending just a bit.

Even if you just focus on the narrow issues that will likely be discussed during the debate, there just isn't much of an argument for the spending increases Romney is proposing. We could significantly cut our defense spending and still be the overwhelmingly biggest and best military in the world, with the effect of decreasing the deficit or using that money to fund other worthwhile things.

I could get into specifics, such as the ridiculously narrow discourse on Iran and it's nuclear program. But I've done so before and will likely do so again outside the context of these dog and pony shows they call debates. I just wanted to get my distaste for what I'm guessing will be a horrible event out there before the media goes nuts.

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