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Foreign Policy and the Third Presidential Debate

Foreign policy has received relatively little attention so far in the debates, but we might hear a bit more about a wider range of these issues tonight. One of the announced topics for the final 2016 presidential debate is “foreign hot spots,” which suggests that the candidates will be pressed for their views on various conflicts and flashpoints around the globe. It is almost a given that one question will be on the recently announced Mosul offensive against ISIS, and I assume there will be more of the same leading Syria questions that we heard last time. Ideally, we should also hear questions about at least two of the following: the ongoing war in Afghanistan, heightened tensions between India and Pakistan following the attack in Uri, the war on Yemen and the U.S. role in it, the supposed firing of missiles at U.S. ships in the Red Sea related to that role, the Russian deployment [1] of Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad, and the public rift between the U.S. and the Philippines under its new president. All of these involve U.S. policies and relationships in one way or another, and we have not heard much of anything from either candidate about any of them. I doubt that any of these additional topics will come up tonight, but Wallace may surprise me.

Tonight will be Trump’s last chance to challenge Clinton on her lackluster foreign policy record. He has mostly failed to do this in the last two debates, and I don’t expect him to do any better this time. If he could spell out the dangerous implications of Clinton’s Syria policy, that could finally put her on the defensive and possibly put a dent in her support, but to do that he would have to know what he’s talking about. Meanwhile, Clinton has been allowed to skate through the entire campaign without facing much scrutiny on foreign policy at all, and there is almost no time left. For all the talk of how this was going to be a foreign policy election, the subject has mostly been ignored for the duration of the general election. Considering that the next president will take office while the U.S. is fighting and/or supporting at least three wars after fifteen years of being at war somewhere in the world, this is a major failure on the part of the candidates and the media. Americans are electing another wartime president, but the candidates have had to answer remarkably few questions about how and why they would continue America’s entanglements in foreign conflicts.

P.S. As usual, I will be covering the debate on Twitter (@DanielLarison [2]). The debate begins at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

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10 Comments To "Foreign Policy and the Third Presidential Debate"

#1 Comment By c matt On October 19, 2016 @ 11:30 am

Of course they have been avoiding foreign policy issues. I can understand why Hildebeast and the Presstitutes have avoided it: It is damaging for her. I can’t understand why Trump hasn’t “trumpeted” it more.

#2 Comment By Uncle Billy On October 19, 2016 @ 12:29 pm

Foreign policy would be a very good issue for Trump to pursue, given Clinton’s weaknesses in that area. He could score a few points if he is rational and avoids ranting about Bill Clinton being unable to control himself around women.

#3 Comment By Fast Jimmy On October 19, 2016 @ 1:07 pm

Trump on foreign policy is about the equivalent of a drunk Marco Rubio after being paid off by the Russians to stay out of Syria. He can’t elucidate a coherent rationale for his correct instinct to refrain from making that disaster worse and more dangerous.

What we are left withand from Trump are lies about his own record, absolutist talk about an Iran confrontation he’s eager for, distortions about the consequences of our Middle East involvement that seem to favor perpetual nation destroying/reconstructing and a general confusion.

Balance that with an ultra-hawk in Pence who will probably run our FP and what you have is a dreadfully unqualified non-starter.

#4 Comment By Dakarian On October 19, 2016 @ 1:33 pm

“Of course they have been avoiding foreign policy issues. I can understand why Hildebeast and the Presstitutes have avoided it: It is damaging for her. I can’t understand why Trump hasn’t “trumpeted” it more.”

The same reason why he spent the week after the first debate talking about Miss Universe winners of over ten years ago and why he’s spending all of his time complaining about the media now.

It’s what some people mean by having issues with his temperment. He’s taking the fight like a media battle and is focusing on topics that inflict the most points with his fans. And they are more concerned about the emails and Bill and “lock her up” than with showing why his policy is better than hers.

And really it’s not just Trump. This is what Republicans have been stuck on for years now and why Hillary keeps getting away from their grasps.

It’s this absolute focus of not being content without absolute destruction. She’s The Devil that MUST be destroyed: nothing else will do. So the second she faces problems, they all go gung ho yelling at the top of their lungs trying to Make Her Pay for every single crime they want to peg on her until everyone just walks away from the matter.

Case in point. Why is Trump bringing a victim of the Benghazi attack? is he really going to bring THAT up now? There’s not much screen time left and those who aren’t already done with caring about Benghazi isn’t going to really be convinced by the little time he’ll be allowed to focus on it, especially with Hillary already prepared to answer to the issue.

It’s just like seeing kids yelling at the top of their lungs at each other over a toy. There MAY be a real issue to deal with there but after they resort to wordless screams and hair pulling and crying and, oh forget it just go to your rooms!

A calm candidate who’s willing to focus and translate his angry voting base into a discussion aimed at convincing and teaching to those tha tdon’t understand would LOVE this debate coming up and have a powerful push forward in their campaign. Though that same person would’ve already done this in, at worst, debate two (assuming cold feet at debate one).

But you won’t get that. Because it’s not good enough that Trump is the only one carrying this platform. It needed to be an actual, strong, well tempered leader.

It’s about getting others outside of you to listen and understand. And that’s something Trump never cared about.

Hopefully, for everyone who’s policy wishes are in the platform, that leader is found and soon.

#5 Comment By Shortening Shadows On October 19, 2016 @ 2:10 pm

I’d guess that Clinton’s banking on America’s short memory and general ignorance of foreign policy.

She’ll rattle off a few memorized names of foreign eminentos, refer vaguely to the need for American strength, refer to her own foreign policy “experience” as though it qualified her for the White House rather than the prisoner’s dock at the Hague.

If Trump were smart he’d hammer her again and again with Libya, Syria, and Yemen. The failed states. The terror attacks unleashed against the West. The millions of refugees destabilizing our allies in Europe.

His answer to every single question should be something along the lines of:

“Clinton has created global chaos by her bad judgments, corruption, and incompetence. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians are dead because of her. Whole countries have collapsed because of her. She flooded Europe with refugees from Libya and Syria, practically destroying the EU, drawing down waves of bloody terror attacks against Europe and America. All she accomplished as Secretary of State was chaos, death, and destruction. Look at the Middle East! Look at it! That’s what she did! She’s not “experienced”. She’s not a “safe pair of hands”. She’s a reckless, incompetent destroyer of countries and human lives.”

That’s his answer to every single question asked tonight. Over and over and over again. Beat it into the skulls of everyone watching.

#6 Comment By Donna On October 19, 2016 @ 3:35 pm

To Shortening Shadows: only she isn’t the one who declares war (but then the congress doesn’t either) or makes any of the decisions. The whole mess was started by George W. Bush and Iraq.

#7 Comment By Just Dropping By On October 19, 2016 @ 4:24 pm

@ Shortening Shadows: The problem is (a) Clinton is correct to bank on those things and (b) Trump has shown no ability, or even real interest, in trying to coherently address the issues. It’s not sufficient to just keep saying, “I was right on Iraq [after the fact], and Clinton was wrong,” he needs to explain why and how that will govern his behavior going forward. If Trump could actually consistently and coherently set forth his non-interventionist bonafides in a way that I believed, I would very likely vote for him, but he hasn’t done so.

#8 Comment By John Gruskos On October 19, 2016 @ 5:09 pm

Trump is the peace candidate.

If he can effectively communicate this message, he will win this election.

#9 Comment By Jack Waters On October 19, 2016 @ 7:20 pm

@John Gruskos,

If Trump is the peace candidate, what does that make Johnson?

#10 Comment By Dakarian On October 19, 2016 @ 11:50 pm


“Trump is the peace candidate.

If he can effectively communicate this message, he will win this election.”

Not sure about that given he wants to increase our military even more, is gung ho about ISIS, has pledged undying support for Isreal, and keeps suggesting that we should’ve stayed in Iraq. There’s bigger hawks but he doesn’t seem interested in bringing our troops home, at least not anymore.

We don’t have a peace candidate.