Commentary: Open Letter Candidates on Foreign Policy

Oct 16, 2012

We’re gearing up to air special live NPR coverage of the Second Presidential Debate, from Hofstra University in New York, tonight. Commentator and History Professor Dr. Brian Clardy writes an open letter to President Obama and Governor Romney about issues to consider before the debate, centered on U.S. foreign policy.

Please note: The views expressed in this commentary are the opinion of the commentator and don't necessarily reflect the views of WKMS.

Dear Mr. President and Governor Romney:

Within the next few hours, you will join CNN’s Candy Crawley at Hofstra University to engage in the great issues of the day in front of millions of Americans who will be watching on various devices. The stakes for both of you cannot be high enough. Mr. President, you will be haunted by the specter of (what is considered by most accounts) a sub-par debate performance two weeks ago. And Governor Romney, there are still a myriad of questions about your tax plan, tax records, and views on various social issues.

But beyond the spin and the glamor, the Monday morning quarterbacking and punditry, both of you will have to grapple with the raw reality of a dangerous world should either of you be elected on November 6th.

Tensions in the Middle East, the menace of a warming planet, and the ever growing terror threat will be awaiting you once the inaugural ceremony has ended. At issue at Hofstra, and beyond, is how either of your administrations will grapple with these simmering global crises.

Voters will need to know of your plans on containing the nuclear threat from Iran. And I don’t know about both of you but Prime Minister Netanyahu’s  “red line” was indeed ominous, but also reflected Israel’s legitimate concern about its future safety. What are your plans to work with our allies in the region, NATO, Russia, and China to contain Tehran’s nuclear weapons program……….for good.

And speaking of the Middle East, what plans do you have on the table to bring Israel and the Palestinian Authority together to resolve outstanding issues going back as far as the Six Day War, if not further?

Its safe to conclude that the Summer of 2012 was one of the hottest (if not THE hottest) on file since records were kept. Mr. President, you’ve had four years to address this; Copenhagen was a disaster. And Governor Romney some of your supporters don’t believe that global warming exists at all. Yet the problem persists having ecological, economic, and potentially serious political consequences. Tell us how your administrations will work with the larger community to address this growing danger?

Voters, as well as our allies and adversaries, need to know of your plans to prevent the horror of nuclear terrorism as groups like Al-Qaeda and other non-state actors are actively seeking to acquire weapons grade atomic materials. How will either of your administrations work cooperatively with the Russian Federation in the spirit of Nunn-Lugar to prevent this awful scenario from happening? Because in the final analysis, the issue is not either achieving political “flexibility” or fomenting conflict with Moscow; indeed, it is about working in sync to possibly save millions of lives.

Mr. President and Governor Romney you have your work cut out for you in a way that goes beyond debate prep and scoring points. The next four years will be a dangerous and tenuous time in the international order. Slogans, snarks, and sophisticated snipes do not for good foreign policy make. Rather, the onus will fall upon both of you to demonstrate the type of leadership that is needed to bring about greater international cooperation as the world moves towards a potentially dangerous period in this post Cold War/post 911 era.

Dr. Brian Clardy is an assistant professor of history and Coordinator of Religious Studies at Murray State University. He is also the host of Café Jazz, Thurday nights on WKMS.