VP Debate once again tells the World that all We care about is the Middle East

16 October 2012, 2020 EDT

Yes, it’s partisan, but it’s a somewhat useful deconstruction

First, I included the above video to reference a point I tried to make earlier – that Romney flip-flopped so much in the first debate that I no longer have any idea what he thinks about the big issues of campaign. I just wish I knew wth Romney wants to do with the presidency. There has to be some purpose, some reason to vote for him, and I can’t find it. Someone tell me in a few coherent, specifics-laden paragraphs why I should vote for him? Not why Obama is a bad president – I know that already – but why Romney should be president. Honestly, I don’t know, which makes his presidential run look like a vanity project or something.

Second, did anyone else think that the vice-presidential debate once again broadcast to the world that our foreign policy is dominated by the Middle East? It was all about Iran, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan. Obviously, these are all important places and issues. But it doesn’t take a lot of foreign policy training to know that Russia’s ever-more erratic course under Czar Putin, a possible euro-EU meltdown, or China are a lot more important to the US’ future than a bunch of small, poor fractured states in the Middle East. But no, let’s argue once again about Israel, Iran, terrorism, Iraq…  Good grief. There are other issues out there…


I argued at length (one, two, three) earlier in the year that the pivot to Asia will likely be undercut by US cultural distance from Asia and the religious right’s obsession with the Middle East and Israel. Happily for my prediction, and unhappily for America’s national interest, the veep debate once again showed that. The pivot, supposedly the biggest shift in American grand strategy since the Cold War, didn’t get a single word. And if we do continue to stay so involved in the Middle East, that silence makes sense. We won’t be able to pivot anywhere, because our resources will be tied up in the Middle East. Once again, there’s no education of the median voter as to why she should care about Asia even though we are supposed to be pivoting there and the emerging stand-off between China and its neighbors, especially Japan, is vastly more important to the US than these Middle East issues. If you’re China, you’re cheering. The less the American voter knows about East Asia, the easier it is to sideline the Americans out here, because there will be no public support for engagement, containment, confrontation, or whatever we policy we choose. North Korea wasn’t mentioned either. And it goes without saying that the developing world got zero time.

During the GOP primaries, I noted too how obviously the Republican party signals its disdain for pretty much the rest of the planet; just how ‘exceptional’ America is became major issue of contention. But I was disappointed to see that Biden missed an opportunity to widen the debate. He certainly knows foreign policy well. He beat Ryan easily in that area, and Ryan was mostly stuck with talking points. A plug for Obama’s handling of US relations with rising Asia would have shown policy breadth and seriousness that Ryan would not have been able to match, and put the Romeny-Ryan ticket more generally on the defensive over Romney’s belligerent language on Russia and China. Too bad.

So, to you Asian readers, rest assured that we couldn’t care less about you. Just keep lending us money though.

Cross-posted at Asian Security Blog.