Given the prospect of a trillion-dollar-plus government bailout package for Wall Street, tonight’s Presidential debate is likely to stray from the official theme of national security and foreign policy. But, as Senators McCain and Obama have each suggested, America’s economic future is closely linked to our national security, our international standing, and our competitiveness in the global marketplace. For that reason, any conversation about putting the US economy back on track will raise some serious questions about the next President’s national security and foreign policy agenda.
The Partnership for a Secure America’s distinguished bipartisan Advisory Board issued a statement asking Senators Obama and McCain five critical questions about foreign policy challenges that will require cooperation between Democrats and Republicans in January of 2009. The statement begins: “As Democrats and Republicans, we believe that the next President of the United States must initiate a new era of US global leadership based on bipartisanship at home and cooperative engagement abroad.”
Here are the five questions, in the form of a “score card” for tonight’s debate. While moderator Jim Lehrer may not ask about each of these issues specifically, ninety minutes is long enough for each candidate to lay out his core ideas for America’s future in the world. If a candidate fails to address an issue altogether, that’s worth 0 points. With an opportunity to score up to thirty points on these issues, let’s see who comes out ahead:
Question 1: As President, how would you strengthen international cooperation to prevent nuclear capabilities from falling into dangerous hands and turn our current failing grade into an “A”?
1 point: Mentions 9/11 Commission Recommendations, port security, or nuclear detection devices.
2 points: Talks about international cooperation to lock down loose nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union.
3 points: Identifies the long term goal of bringing a wide range of US and international interests on WMD non-proliferation into alignment, especially under the aegis of UN Security Council Resolution 1540, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Question 2: What alternative fuel, energy efficiency, and emissions reduction policies would you seek to implement nationally and internationally by the end of your first term as President in January 2013?
1 point: Mentions biofuels, wind, solar, nuclear and other renewables.
2 points: Suggests a comprehensive plan including new materials research, and practical incentives for individuals and businesses to reduce wasteful consumption by increasing efficiency.
3 points: Mentions upcoming Copenhagen (Kyoto II) summit and says he will work to bring developing economies like China and India into line with developed-world energy efficiency standards by a realistic date.
Question 3: How will you elevate both the level and effectiveness of US government development spending to advance our national security and foreign policy goals?
1 point: Mentions 9/11 Commission recommendations on aid and outreach to Muslim countries, recognizing linkage between desperate poverty, failed states, and threats to US national security.
2 points: Acknowledges long-term problems created by current US food aid policies, which are too slow to act, and can flood local markets, inhibiting recovery. Endorses President Bush’s commitment to spend more of US food aid dollars on local purchases.
3 points: Proposes significant increase in US development spending, especially in Africa, along with reorganization of aid policies and agencies to ensure a coordinated approach to development, conflict prevention and promotion of democracy.
Question 4: How will you reaffirm America’s global leadership in promoting human rights and the rule of law around the world?
1 point: Calls for an absolute prohibition on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in US custody.
2 points: Notes that the US still owes the United Nations more than $1 billion in unpaid dues and commits to pay up now and in the future.
3 points: Promises to apply unwavering pressure through the UN Security Council to strengthen the peacekeeping and genocide prevention mission in Darfur. Endorses the Responsibility to Protect-an international law doctrine that obligates states to intervene to prevent genocide.
Question 5: As President, how will you actively engage China while encouraging it to become a stronger stakeholder in the international system?
1 point: Acknowledges that a productive US-China relationship is important for US interests in the 21st Century.
2 points: Proposes increasing US-China cooperation in bilateral, regional and international forums, while at the same time making our concerns about Chinese human rights, economic and security policies clear, and backing our words with appropriate leverage.
3 points: Suggests ways the US can encourage China to direct its growing national power to constructive global leadership on shared global security interests like preventing terrorism, WMD proliferation, genocide, and state failure.
Well, how did the candidates do? I’ll post my own tally and analysis of the candidates’ scores on these pages, but I’m interested in others’ comments and reactions!