My colleague Noah Millman has already beaten me to it, but here are a few more questions that the candidates should be asked tonight that won’t come up during the debate. Some of these are questions that I’d like specific candidates to be asked, and others are for the entire field.
To all the candidates:
1) The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which was a reminder of how relatively successful Tunisia’s transition from authoritarian rule to a more representative political system has been. Tunisia is also the one Arab country to experience a major uprising in the Near East and North Africa with little or no outside interference. Do you think Tunisia’s transition has been so successful because there has been comparatively so little foreign interference in their politics? If so, tell us what conclusions you draw from that about U.S. democracy promotion and regime change efforts elsewhere.
2) The U.S. war on ISIS is now over a year old, but it has achieved very little and has yet to be authorized by Congress. Should the U.S. continue waging the war without Congressional authorization? Do you think Congress should withhold funding for such a desultory war? What U.S. interest is served by continuing to wage this war?
3) There is increasing support in Sweden and Finland for NATO membership in response to recent aggressive Russian rhetoric and actions. Would you support further expansion of the alliance to include these countries given the strong likelihood that it would greatly antagonize Russia and might precipitate a new crisis in Europe?
4) The Obama administration had acknowledged the failure of the old policy towards Cuba and has pursued normalization of relations, which all of you support. Under what conditions would you be prepared to copy that example and normalize relations with Iran?
Your endorsement of a “no-fly zone” in Syria prompted one of your opponents to say that you are “always quick for the military intervention.” Why do you continue to have such excessive confidence in the efficacy of hard power to produce better outcomes after the disasters in Iraq and Libya?
You have stated that you want the Saudis to take a more active role in regional security, and specifically in the war on ISIS. Given the terrible, unnecessary destruction that the Saudi-led coalition is already causing in Yemen, why would you want to see an even more activist Saudi foreign policy in other parts of the region?
You have obliquely criticized the Libyan war and Hillary Clinton’s support for it, but your own position on the intervention in Libya is quite vague. If you were president and were presented with a conflict like the one in Libya, would you commit the U.S. to take sides in a foreign war and overthrow the regime by force? Why or why not?
Your opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran sets you apart from the rest of the other candidates and puts you at odds with much of the Democratic Party. Being as specific as you can on the substance of the agreement, why do you reject the deal? To follow up, how do you reconcile rejecting one of the biggest achievements of U.S. diplomacy in recent decades with your general support for greater diplomatic engagement?