Here are some suggested questions for next week's foreign policy debate. I really don't want to waste a single minute on how it's been gotten wrong or right in the last four or even last twelve years. I want to know where we go from here. And in order to know, as best we can when it comes to predicting future behaviors, I have some questions.
1. Why must Israel be our ‘special’ friend? Why isn’t it enough that we are allies? Shouldn’t our goal be to be ‘friends’ with all the nations of the world? Does speaking ‘for’ human rights for Palestinians equate in your mind to speaking ‘against’ Israel?
2. Why should we arm anyone around the world? There is a call to arm folks in Syria, which overlooks the obvious question of why arm anyone. In Syria in particular, who would you arm? Why?
3. When will either of you bring all our troops (mercenaries/private contractors included) home from Iraq?
4. What is the tipping point for you in moving away from sanctions and towards military solutions (including nuclear attack) against Iran? In other words, what would trigger a justification for war or military action against Iran?
5. What WWIII dangers do you see right now in the world? What about Syria/Turkey/Iran/Russia/China/US alignments in regards to the Syrian civil war? Do you see a danger there of missteps that might lead to global conflict? What will you do to avoid that?
6. Explain to the American people exactly upon what legal basis, national and international, you would place US ships in the Strait of Hormuz? Iran has threatened to blockade its own territorial waters in the Strait. Upon what basis do you claim that the United States would have the justification to militarily oppose such an action? Do you have any other basis for such a position than ‘because we can’? Or that cutting off oil (even if done perfectly legally) ‘threatens our national interests abroad’? Why would it be militarily actionable for Iran to police its own waters however it sees fit? Please bear in mind that inconvenient or costly or even economically catastrophic is not militarily actionable, else we would have tanks parked on Wall Street.
7. Drones – yes or no. Usage of drones inevitably takes the position that the lives of civilians, often children, are expendable, more expendable than our own troops. After all, they aren’t our kids. How do you justify that? Will you at least acknowledge that modern warfare as waged by the United States has abandoned even the pretense of acting to protect civilians on all sides?
8. What do you believe solved the Cuban Missile Crisis? Was it military strength? Diplomacy? Some combination? We teach our children that it was military strength alone that averted nuclear war between the US and the then USSR, omitting from the narrative the behind-the-scenes negotiating that took place whereby the USSR withdrew its missiles from Cuba and we withdrew ours from Turkey.
9. Do you perceive engaging in diplomacy as a sign of weakness or of strength and why?
10. When, if ever, should the United States apologize on the world stage? When have we gotten it wrong in the last 10-20 years? Should we admit that? Why or why not?
11. Name your top 5 principal advisors on matters of foreign policy – the people upon whose advice you most rely. What is their experience/where and for whom have they worked in the past? What do they bring to the table as far as you’re concerned?
12. Name one naysayer on matters of foreign policy to whom you regularly listen – someone who sees the world very differently than you do and tells you so. Name one time when that person changed your mind and why.
13. Name the most important religious principle of your own faith that governs your views on how the United States interacts with other countries and why.
14. Name one person from history whose leadership in world affairs shapes how you think on these issues and one lesson you learned from that person.
15. You are both espousing Christians. How does your faith inform you on matters of foreign policy? Specifically, Jesus taught that the other, the enemy, the one not of our tribe, is in fact our neighbor, whom we are to love even as we love ourselves. How do you see that maxim of the Christian faith played out in your presidency?
16. Constitutionally, the president is the commander-in-chief. Why, in your view, is this role important to be held by a civilian? How does investing the duties of commander-in-chief in the civilian office of the presidency serve and promote the public welfare?
17. Surveillance of citizens of the United States by the CIA and other intelligence agencies of the federal government – do you favor or oppose and why?
18. The Patriot Act’s provision making the education of persons or groups on non-violence, peaceful resolution to conflict and utilization of legal recourse an act of terror if provided to persons labeled by the government as terrorists – what, in your view, is the purpose of prohibiting such skills, intended to help people move away from violence and towards peace in solving problems? How does this provision promote the national security interests of the United States, if at all? To Mr. Romney – if elected president, would you keep this provision intact or move to rescind it?
19. NAFTA and CAFTA and other free trade agreements are attacked by working people of the countries with whom we have these agreements as decimating their livelihoods. What changes, if any, would you make to these agreements? How do these agreements benefit working people in the US or abroad?
20. Please as best you are able refrain in speaking in sound bites or slogans and address the role of the United Nations from your point of view – addressing specifically its positives and not its negatives. What does the United Nations do well in your view? Name at least one success story of the United Nations from your point of view.
21. There is much discussion about the Republican strategy regarding taxes of having a pledge, a precommitment, if you will, not to engage in tax-increasing behaviors. Will you make such a pledge here and now to the American people when it comes to engaging in military action around the world? Will you pledge not to engage in military action around the world unless you have first sought and obtained from Congress a formal declaration of war? If you will not, why not?