|Source: New York Daily News|
I think Romney's chief difficulty was in delineating precisely how his foreign policy differs (or will differ if elected) from Obama's. For the most part Romney and Obama seemed to be on the same page on the various, though severely limited, global issues that were discussed (the only clear exception being military spending). The most Romney ever did to distance himself from Obama was a few vague criticisms directed towards the Obama administration's lack of geopolitical leadership. Most surprising of all Romney did not attack Obama for the administration's clear mishandling of the Libya affair that left some Americans dead, US Ambassador Stevens among them, even though the moderator gave him ample opportunity to do so. (This is similar to Obama's surprising omission in the first debate concerning Romney's 47 percent gaffe.)
Ultimately though Romney's performance during the debate is irrelevant since foreign policy itself tends to be irrelevant to most voters. Rarely have elections been decided based on a candidate's foreign policy views and unless a major crisis erupts in the next couple of weeks foreign policy will remain a negligible factor for undecided voters. (For those who care my own prediction is that Obama will narrowly be re-elected.)
At any rate what was most disappointing to me about the debate was the pathetic amount of time given to discussing China (Brazil, another important rising power, was completely ignored as were several other countries and regions.) In fact in the small amount of time that was given to debating about Chinese policy both candidates managed to steer the topic to a discussion about the US economy!
|Source: Rolling Stone Magazine|
The future (and current) importance of China is nicely illustrated in a scene from the recent entertaining time travel film Looper where Jeff Daniels character, incredulous that the young Bruce Willis (played by Joseph Gordon Levit) wants to learn French, strongly insists instead that he learn Mandarin (Mainland Chinese). "Trust me", he says, "I'm from the future. Learn Mandarin."
Indeed, China's growing strategic importance, my love for Chinese/Hong Kong Kung Fu films, and Looper have caused me to rethink my future historical subjects of inquiry. Maybe it's time that I too begin to shift, or as much it pains me to say, pivot, Eastward.