Bob Schieffer will be moderating the debate tonight, and he has already released the list of topics that will be covered. North African and the Near Eastern issues make up most of the topics to the exclusion of almost everything except for the war in Afghanistan and China. Here are some questions related to these issues that Obama ought to be expected to answer, but which are extremely unlikely to come up tonight.
1) Your administration has presided over an intensified sanctions policy against Iran. This policy has imposed onerous economic burdens on the Iranian people without causing any apparent change in Iranian regime behavior regarding its nuclear program. Isn’t your Iran sanctions policy ineffective on its own terms as well as needlessly cruel and harmful to the civilian population?
2) The Libyan war was justified primarily on humanitarian grounds and has been held up as an example of the “responsibility to protect” in action, but its effects have contributed directly to serious security and humanitarian crises in the Sahel, especially in Mali. If you knew then what you know now about the consequences of the Libyan war, would you still have ordered military action? If so, why?
3) You have ruled out the possibility of containing a nuclear-armed Iran. Is there any reason to believe that the U.S. does not have the ability to contain a nuclear-armed regional power? Doesn’t the decision to rule out containment make war with Iran much more likely than it has to be?
4) Weapons supplied to Syrian opposition forces with U.S. help have reportedly ended up in the hands of jihadist groups. Wasn’t it a mistake to agree to assist Saudi Arabia and Qatar in providing arms to the opposition?
5) One of the results of the Libyan war has been that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is now able to operate freely in northern Mali. When are the costs of humanitarian intervention to international security too high to make it worthwhile?