The Reckoning

Is Anything More Foreign to Americans Than Foreign Policy?

romney blimp
Yes, Romney is counting on hot air over Florida, but Obama could fuel a fleet of these, too.

Photograph by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

From my column for The National today:

’Be careful what you wish for,” my mother used to say, “because someday you may just get it.”

And so I have. After years of bemoaning the absence of foreign policy issues in US presidential campaigns, even during the hyperactive unilateralist madness of the George W Bush administration, my mother’s words have come to pass. As we wind our way towards the November 6 presidential election, a too-close-to-call race for the most powerful office in the world may well come down to a televised debate on foreign policy.


Of course, the United States faces some of the most serious challenges in its history at the moment, many of them emanating from abroad. The ability to adjust to the realities since the 2008 financial crisis is the paramount foreign policy challenge of the day, challenging Americans to rethink their role in a world where economic power and political influence are shared among many actors.


This requires careful, long-term planning and frank conversations with friends and foes alike on topics as diverse as the future of global finance, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the use of drones in warfare, the threat of drug-resistant pandemic diseases, the continuing need for leadership in settling territorial disputes in the Middle East, the two Koreas and the South China Sea, and the reform of international institutions that still reflect the status quo of 1945.

I should be ecstatic that a prime-time forum on foreign policy will be watched by millions of Americans.

Yet the prospect of President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney trying to out-duel each other on how the United States should handle the changing world is terrifying.

Read the rest at The National