Tonight in Boca Raton, FL President Obama and Mitt Romney will square off in their third and final debate. This debate will take the form of a round table debate on foreign policy. Although most acknowledge that the economy and jobs remain the crux of public debate and will determine this election, over the past few weeks there has been growing interest and media coverage over the candidate’s stances on foreign policy. Drawing distinctions between their positions on foreign policy is not as obvious between the campaigns as it is on other issues, such as the environment or tax policy, but the differences are there and will result in starkly different trajectories for U.S. policy. In the sensitive realm of foreign policy, slight emphases can result in very different positions and perceptions by U.S. allies abroad.
In tonight’s debate, there are several things to listen for and ask yourself as you hear the two candidates’ visions for America as it relates to the global community:
- Foreign policy and America’s role in the world: Listen for the positioning of each candidate on the issues such as U.S. leadership, multilateralism, and institutions such as the United Nations and International Criminal Court. (The UCC has long articulated support for both the U.N. and I.C.C.)
- Iran’s nuclear program and nuclear disarmament: The New York times over the weekend suggested the possibility of the opening of one-on-one negotiation with Iran on the issue. President Obama has often raised the possibility of a nuclear weapons-free world in his speeches. Listen for how each candidate responds to this opening for diplomacy with Iran and further nuclear weapon reduction commitments. (The UCC has called for increased solidarity and friendship with Iran and for signing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.)
- Libya Attack: The assault on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi will undoubtedly be one of the more contested issues Monday night as it was in the last debate. Both candidates are accusing one another of either downplaying the facts or using the tragic event for political points. Our response to terrorism will likely headline this debate response, but missing in the conversation is reality of budget cuts to diplomacy and the need to address acts of hostility toward Islam and the Muslim community. This can be witnessed most recently in anti-Muslim ads appearing in several cities. (The UCC has spoken out against anti-Muslim hostility)
- Defense Cuts and the war in Afghanistan: If indeed the election is about our economy, this issue should be front and center. It is unlikely, however, because neither candidate likes to lead on needed changes in defense funding. How both candidates position themselves on a “winding down” war in Afghanistan is important. 2014 or later? The debate over defense cuts as part of the deficit reduction “deal” is also critical to listen for. A $2 Trillion increase in military spending which Romney has promised is a concern for many. (The UCC has endorsed a “Faithful Budget” with other faith communities which recognized the cost of war and the need for true human security.)
- Israel/Palestine: This is an area in which many advocates would like to see a greater distinction between both candidates. Both vow a strong partnership with Israel going forward and an unchanged commitment to a two state solution and an unconditional $3 billion in military aid. Will either mention issues of human rights or settlements? (In recent weeks some churches have raised concern for U.S. military aid to Israel and human rights violations. The UCC has over the years articulated several positions on the issue of Israel/Palestine viewed on our Global Ministries site.)
These are but a few of the issues that will emerge in tonight’s debate. As a Just Peace Church, the United Church of Christ’s General Synod has over the years articulated positions on a range of international policy issues. From Middle East policy, to nuclear disarmament, to trade, and human trafficking, the UCC continues to be a bold witness suggesting that true “security” goes beyond building stronger borders and bigger bombs. We affirm a U.S. policy that ensures that all have basic needs met, strengthens multilateral institutions, guarantees human rights, and calls for care for our planet. If these are your values too, listen and vote for which candidate best embodies them tonight.