Stop shorting foreign policy on the campaign trail
The still-lousy economy is the biggest issue in this year’s presidential election. That’s as it should be. After all, the U.S. unemployment rate has been at least 8 percent (8.3 percent in July) for the last 42 months — the longest streak at that painfully high level since the Depression.
But the economy should not be the only issue in the race for the White House — or in the races for U.S. House and Senate seats.
Nor should the only other issues be domestic ones.
Unfortunately, though, in a rare display of agreement, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both seem content to almost totally ignore foreign policy as they seek votes.
That’s a bipartisan disservice to the electorate as it tries to make a fully informed choice on Nov. 6.
Among the serious international predicaments that rate considerable presidential-race debate: Iran’s relentless quest for nuclear weapons, the Syrian government’s brutal effort to put down a popular “Arab Spring” rebellion, the continuing belligerence of a North Korean regime that already has nuclear weapons, the global financial consequences of Europe’s deepening debt mess, Russia’s growing role as an obstructionist against U.S. interests, China’s combative trade tactics, the practical limits of America’s military (and fiscal) reach and much more.
This week, Lowcountry residents have gotten grim news that serves as a reminder of another persisting foreign challenge: U.S. Air Force Maj. Walter Gray, a 2001 Charleston Southern graduate, was killed, along with two Army officers, by a suicide bomber on Aug. 8 in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.
The suicide bomber wasn’t a member of the Afghan security forces (soldiers and police). But Afghan soldiers and police have killed 34 members of the U.S. armed forces this year — even as our military strives to train Afghans so they can take over the fight against the Taliban.
And on Tuesday, suicide bombers in southwestern Afghanistan killed 46 people — most of them civilians.
Yet the apparently deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, along with those other high-stakes international dilemmas, are getting short shrift on the campaign trail.
Americans shouldn’t have to wait until Oct. 22, when the last of the three presidential debates focuses on foreign policy, to hear the candidates more fully address it.
The current commander in chief and the man who wants to take that job away from him should provide detailed explanations of how they intend to handle pressing international problems. They also should provide an overview of where they think U.S. foreign policy is — and where it should go.
Because while our domestic economy remains in bad shape, presidential missteps on any of the many high-risk international fronts could make it much worse.