While we have no doubt that Bob
Schieffer, the moderator of Monday night's foreign policy debate, will have plenty
of material to choose from in formulating his questions for the candidates, we
couldn't resist a chance to add our own suggestions. Following are some potential questions for
the debate as submitted by the Shadow Government crew:
1. Mr. President, is there any
foreign policy challenge America faces that you would concede has gotten worse
on your watch because of actions you have taken or not taken? In other words,
is there any foreign policy problem that you would say can be blamed at least
partly on you and not entirely on Republicans or President Bush?
2. Mr. President, what is the
fairest criticism of your foreign policy record that you have heard from
Governor Romney over the course of this campaign?
3. Mr. President, what is the most
unfair criticism of Romney's foreign policy platform that you have heard your
supporters levy over the course of this campaign?
4. Mr. President, why do you say
that Romney is proposing defense expenditures that the military have not asked
for when Romney is just proposing restoring funding to the levels you claimed
were needed in your own budget a few years ago. That budget, which you asked
for, reflected what the military asked for didn't it? And didn't you order the
military to accept deeper cuts -- thus they can't now speak up and ask for
those levels to be restored without being insubordinate, so isn't it misleading
to claim that they are not asking for them when you ordered them not to?
5. For both: Both campaigns have
featured senior retired military endorsements as a way of demonstrating your
fitness to be commander-in-chief. Don't you worry that such endorsements drag
the military into partisan politics, thus undermining public confidence in a
non-partisan military institution?
1. Mr. President, history tells us that
prestige matters; that is, nation-states who are regarded for their power,
whether military, economic or moral, are less often challenged by those who
wish to upset the peace or change the international order that favors the
interests of the great powers. Has your administration seen an increase in the
prestige of the United States or a decrease, and why?
2. For both: Isn't a reform of our
foreign aid system and institutions long overdue, and shouldn't reform have as
its primary goal the promotion of direct and tangible US interests, such as
more trade with more countries that govern themselves democratically? If this
is truly the appropriate goal for international development funds, then why
aren't all aid recipients required to practice sustained and real democracy?
1. For both: Do you believe that the economically
endangered nations of Europe should adopt policies of austerity, as countries
like Germany have argued, or that they should turn instead to more fiscal
stimulus? If you prefer stimulus, is there any level of debt/GDP at which you
get concerned about their ability to pay those debts? If you believe these
countries should borrow more, from whom should they borrow? Should the United
States be offering funds?
2. For both: There has been almost no progress on global trade talks since the summer of
2008. How would you assess the health of the World Trade Organization and the
world trading system? Is this important for the United States? What would you
do to strengthen the WTO, if anything?
3. For both: In 2009, in response to the stimulus bill, a top Chinese economic official
said, ""We hate you guys. Once you start issuing $1 trillion-$2 trillion...
we know the dollar is going to depreciate, so we hate you guys but there is
nothing much we can do...." Brazil's finance minister, Guido Mantega, has
accused the United States Federal Reserve of igniting a global currency war
with its policies of quantitative easing. To what extent does the United States
need to consider the international ramifications of its economic policies? Do
you believe a strong dollar is in the U.S. interest? If so, what does that
1. For both: What do you consider the top two
national security threats to our country?
2. For both: How do you see increasing energy
independence for the United States affecting our foreign policy?
3. President Obama, you have threatened
to veto any changes to the 2010 Budget Control Act, yet both your Secretary of
Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe sequestration
going into effect would be disastrous. How will you enact the Budget Control Act
without damaging our national defense?
4. Governor Romney, you have committed
to increase defense spending; where does the money come from to do that in year
1 of a Romney administration?
5. President Obama, Vice President
Biden has said that your administration will withdraw U.S. forces from
Afghanstan in 2014, whether or not the Afghan security forces are then capable
of taking over the fight. Do you agree?
1. For both: Under what circumstances would you
authorize military action against
Iran's nuclear facilities?
Will you intervene to stop the civil war in Syria? If so, what lessons
have you learned from our recent experiences in Iraq, Afghanistan, and
Libya that will shape how you undertake an intervention?
How do you plan to accomplish a responsible transition to Afghan
leadership for security there? What should be the mission of U.S.
troops in Afghanistan after transition, and how many troops will be
required to accomplish it? Or do you envision a complete withdrawal of
2. For both: Should the United States support the spread of democracy abroad? What is
the role of democracy assistance in U.S. grand strategy, and how does it
relate to our overall national interests? How will you respond to future peaceful uprisings like the Green Revolution or the Arab Spring?
3. For both: Some Americans are concerned that the government has accumulated too
much power over the last decade in its effort to develop a robust
counterterrorism capability. Others believe we need to keep those
powers because the terrorist threat has not abated. Do you plan to
sustain the government's new, post-9/11 war-time powers, reportedly
including targeted killings and indefinite detentions, indefinitely? If
not, will you publicly and explicitly commit to defining a clear
end-state to the war against al Qaeda, the achievement of which will
terminate the new powers?
1. For both: What will be your
response if Israel chooses to bomb Iran over its nuclear weapons program?
2. Mr. President, your administration
has argued that al Qaeda is "on its heels." After Benghazi, do you
still agree with this assessment?
3. For both: You have both agreed that
the U.S. needs to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014. Are there any developments
that would lead you to change your mind?
1. President Obama, in Venezuela,
dictator Hugo Chávez presides over an
anti-American regime that is directed by Castro, funded by China, armed by
Russia, and exploited by Iran, Hezbollah, and a swarm of narcotraffickers. Yet,
this past July, Mr. President, you told a Miami
reporter that the Venezuelan dictator had no "serious national security
impact" on the United States. In light of Mr. Chávez's troubling alliances, Mr.
President, can you please assure us again or more fully explain why we do not
need to be concerned about the situation in Venezuela?
2. Governor Romney, in the past two
debates you held out increased U.S. trade with Latin America as part of the
solution for improving U.S. economic prospects. Could you please elaborate on
your vision for a more robust U.S. re-engagement with Latin America, a region
that has been an afterthought for the current administration?
1. Mr. President, you have frequently
voiced your criticism of your predecessor George W. Bush, yet many observers
believe that your administration has actually adopted many policies of the Bush administration. Are there any policies
or tools developed by the Bush administration that you are now thankful for?
2. For both: What past American president do you
most admire on foreign policy, and why? What past American president do you least admire on foreign policy, and
3. For both: A recent Pew Forum study
found that over 70 percent of the global population lives under high restrictions on
religious belief and practice. To take
just one region, the ongoing turbulence of the Arab Awakening and resurgence of
Islamist groups shows that religious freedom remains a central factor in global
politics. Do you believe that promoting
international religious freedom should be a priority of American foreign
policy, and if so, why and how?
4. Mr. President, the past year has seen
Vladimir Putin return to Russia's presidency based on a campaign of
anti-Americanism, Russia repeatedly block U.N. Security Council action on Syria,
evict USAID operations from Russia, and end its participation in the Nunn-Lugar
program for securing and dismantling WMD stockpiles. Has the "re-set" been a failure?
1. Mr. President, under your leadership the
United States is MIA in much of the world. Assad's repression in Syria has
ignited a fire at the heart of the Middle East that is a humanitarian
catastrophe, directly threatens the security of NATO ally Turkey, and risks
rolling back or radicalizing the historic Arab Awakening - but we are nowhere
to be found. In Libya, terrorists murdered an American ambassador for the first
time in 30 years -- and no one has paid a price. The postwar European project
risks falling apart, with enormous consequences for the transatlantic alliance
-- yet rarely has the Atlantic seemed wider or Washington more disengaged from
our oldest friends. In Iraq, we walked off the playing field before securing
our enormous gains there; we are preparing to do the same thing in Afghanistan,
irrespective of our strategic goals, and purely on the basis of our political
calendar. Meanwhile, we are rhetorically "pivoting" to Asia but have devoted
few if any actual resources to a strategic rebalance that could reshape the century
ahead; in fact, your proposed defense cuts risk ceding the region to our
competitors. In a world where economic influence matters as much as military
power, we haven't had a trade agenda for four years -- beyond legacy initiatives
launched by your predecessor. Yes, we understand that you prefer
government-directed nation-building at home. But it's a dangerous world out
there, and it is unraveling in the absence of our leadership. Mr. President,
can America afford not to have a foreign policy?
1. Governor Romney, Mr. President -- you
have both said that Iran will not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. Well,
as we focus on Iran, North Korea has been expanding its nuclear arsenal and
ballistic missile inventory; has threatened to transfer its capability abroad
and was only stopped in 2007 when Israel bombed a reactor that the North
Koreans were helping Syria to build.
2. So Mr. President, why have you not been able to stop this...and Governor
Romney, what would you do about it?
1. For both: Do you believe in the
doctrine known as American exceptionalism? If so, why? What are its
implications for U.S. foreign policy?
2. For both: Would you be prepared to
authorize that a suspected terrorist be waterboarded if you believed he might
have information on an imminent plot to detonate a nuclear bomb in a major
3. For both: Do you believe that it
should be American policy to help accelerate the collapse of the current regime
4. For both: Do you think it should be
American policy to defend Taiwan militarily if it is the victim of an
unprovoked Chinese attack?
5. For both: Do you believe that the
ideology of Islamic extremism poses a major national security threat to the
United States? If so, what would you do to combat it?
6. For both: Are you committed to
developing and deploying a comprehensive missile defense system that would be
designed to protect the United States from long-range attacks by Russian,
Chinese, Iranian and North Korean missiles?
7. Mr. President, can you explain
why it is appropriate for the United States to conduct drone attacks against
suspected terrorists -- including U.S. citizens -- which may result in the
accidental death of non-terrorists, but it wasn't OK under the previous
administration for the United States to subject suspected terrorists to harsh
interrogations that carried no risk of death or injury to non-terrorists?
8. Mr. President, in a
conversation focused on missile defense, a hot mic captured you privately
telling Russian President Medvedev that he and Vladimir Putin should be patient
until after the U.S. elections, at which point you would have more flexibility.
What did you mean?
9. Governor Romney, could you
explain what you meant when you called Russia our No. 1 geopolitical foe?
10. Governor Romney, given the
dangerous world we live in, could you explain why you believe that someone like
yourself with virtually no national security experience should be elected
1. President Obama, three questions on the pivot:
Your top advisers keep stating
that the "pivot" is not about China and say the same thing to China.
Meanwhile allies in the region want to be reassured that the "pivot"
is about balancing China's power. How are you going to resassure the Chinese
that it is not about them while reassuring the allies that it is about China?
How will you
"rebalance" to Asia in a credible way after you slashed defense
budgets including programs that matter most in the Asia Pacific.
Is it really appropriate to talk
about a "pivot" away from the Middle East given Al Qaeda's
2. For both: Will you sell the 66 F-16c/ds that
Taiwan asked for over 6 years ago?
3. Governor Romney, what steps will you take to show our
allies that our policy of checking China's power is credible and sustainable?
1. President Obama, why are you so confident that the
U.S. intelligence community will know when Iran takes the final steps to
develop a nuclear weapon? At that point, won't it be too late to prevent a
2. President Obama, do you believe that the United
States and NATO are at all responsible for the current security situation in
Libya and proliferation of weapons throughout the region given the lack of
post-conflict assistance following the fall of Qaddafi?
3. President Obama, have you learned anything from the
evolution of the crisis in Syria over the last eighteen months? What have been
the achievements of U.S. policy toward Syria during this period?
4. Governor Romney, in recent months, you have noted
that your initial priority as President will be on fixing the U.S. economy. How
will you organize your administration to ensure that international crises, such
as the recent attack on our consulate in Benghazi, will be handled effectively
if your primary focus will be on domestic issues?
5. Governor Romney, you have expressed concern about
President Obama's lack of leadership on Syria and called for arming the Syrian
rebels. How would you ensure that U.S. lethal assistance does not fall into the
wrong hands and how would you respond to growing calls from the opposition and
our allies in the region for U.S. military intervention?
6. Governor Romney, will you continue President Obama's
dual track approach of negotiations coupled with pressure on the Iranian regime
or establish a new policy? By what metric would you judge whether negotiations
have been successful?
1. President Obama, in March you were overheard on an open
microphone reassuring Russian President Medvedev that you would have
"greater flexibility" in dealing with Russia on missile defense after
the presidential election. Could you tell the American
public now, before the election: flexibility to do what?
2. President Obama, your Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, has
termed the cuts to U.S. defense mandated by the Budget Control Act of
2011 "catastrophic." Do you agree? If so, what are you willing to do to
avert those cuts?
Win McNamee/Getty Images