Presidential debate: 7 foreign policy questions that should be asked … and probably won’t

October 22, 2012

Tonight’s final presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney on foreign policy and national security at Lynn University in Boca Raton will hit six topics over the course of an hour and a half. Moderator Bob Schieffer of the CBS’ Face the Nation can’t possibly get in all the questions on the minds of viewers. 


Here are seven questions policy experts think should be asked, but probably won’t: 

Danielle Pletka, American Enterprise Institute: Mr. President, in June 2009 you gave your first speech in Cairo and were never heard to criticize long-time Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. You only called for his ouster after it was clear he was on his way out. Do you believe, particularly in light of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood’s in Egypt and current President Mohamed Morsi’s reluctance to condemn the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on September 11th of this year, that calling for Mubarak to step down was the right decision? And Governor Romney, what would you have done under the circumstances?

James Lewis, CSIS: The focus of global power and wealth used to be transatlantic. Now that focus has moved to the Pacific Rim, but a “pivot” is only a first step in adjusting to this shift. America’s traditional allies in Europe and Asia are getting weaker. New regional powers like China, Brazil, India, or Turkey don’t always trust the U.S. and look at global institutions like the Security Council or the IMF and say they need a bigger role in making the rules. How would you build serious partnerships with the new powers to gain their cooperation and support in a way that maintains America’s global leadership?

Sarah Jane Staats, Center for Global Development: President Obama, Governor Romney, you both acknowledge that U.S. foreign aid promotes America’s moral, economic and security interests. But the United States’ core foreign assistance policy was written during the Kennedy administration. How will you update foreign aid to tackle today’s global challenges?

James Carafano, Heritage Foundation: Few countries in NATO are meeting the target on defense spending established for membership in the alliance. Yet the EU insists on creating expensive duplicative military structures. Europe can’t afford both. Isn’t it time to tell the Europeans if they want to be serious partners in Transatlantic security to make a hard choice?

Sanho Tree, Institute for Policy Studies: Last month, the presidents of Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala – all three conservatives who have diligently fought the drug war alongside the U.S. – sent a letter to the Secretary General of the UN asking for a fundamental reevaluation of international drug policies. All three have talked about ending drug prohibition and exploring regulatory alternatives because the drug war provides an astronomical “price support” to drug traffickers against which many governments cannot compete. Will you engage them in a fundamental reevaluation or will you support more of the same policies?

Chris Preble, Cato Institute: Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution vests the authority to declare war with the Congress. Is this provision now obsolete? Should the president be able to initiate a war on his sole authority, as President Obama did in Libya? Or should he have obtained prior approval from Congress?

C. Fred Bergsten, Peterson Institute for International Economics: Developments in the world economy, especially the euro crisis and the slowdown in China, could have major negative effects on our own economy and ability to create jobs.  What would you do to get both Europe and China to provide stronger support for global growth and stability?

What questions are on your mind?

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