The Final Presidential Debate

First of all, this is minor, but I think these debate coin tosses are rigged. Mitt wins every time. I want to see these alleged tosses televised.

I was fairly appalled by this debate. In a debate about foreign policy, the only countries that were mentioned (aside from China, the United Kingdom, Israel, France, and a brief mention of the countries of Latin America) were countries that the candidates claimed could be security threats to the United States like Lybia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The futures of these countries is important, but none of them pose a real threat to America. There is a greater chance of being struck by lightning than being killed by a terrorist in America, and America has by far the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world. Even if these countries were all to ban together to fight America, (which they wouldn’t) they could do little damage, and as Obama said “Al-Qaeda’s core leadership has been decimated,” so why are we still talking about them?

Intervention in these countries was mainly discussed to “protect the US from attack,” and not to help the people of these nations. The candidates didn’t write the questions they were asked, and this is part of the reason these topics dominated the debate. But they both had ample opportunity to mention humanitarian crises elsewhere. They went off on plenty of tangents that had nothing to do with the foreign policy, so the least they could have done was mention struggling peoples who don’t directly affect us.

The food crises, water insecurity, and inadequate medicine in South East Asia, most of Africa, and India weren’t mentioned once, even though they kill millions of people every year. These are problems, America, the richest country on Earth, could easily fix with humanitarian aid, training programs, and foreign policy changes. But they don’t seem to see there’s a wide world outside of America. Of course, Americans are the only people voting, which is why they do this, but the world is watching and this debate affects those people and their perceptions of this country.

Romney and Obama both take a predatory look at the world. When asked what is the greatest threat to national security Obama’s response was “terrorist networks.” Mitt said it is a “nuclear Iran.” But the greatest actual threat to national security is anthropogenic climate disruption and America’s misanthropic, imperialist, hegemonic foreign policy, which largely ignores the massive lack of resources and despotism in poor countries and cities across the globe. These conditions also fuel some desperate people to take desperate, extreme measures that they call terrorism. Fundamentally, both candidates misunderstand the security dilemma, which is false and contrived. Imperial nations led by America create “security risks” by ignoring poor starving people who weren’t mentioned once in the debate while the military was mentioned a total of 49 times.

Romney actually talked about creating peace and bringing education to women in countries in the Middle East, which is ironic because I can’t imagine he has any intention of doing so, and these are goals he never discussed before in his campaign until learning two weeks prior to the election that they are popular positions. He wanted to invade Iraq in 2001 and he still supports the position, even though no WMDs have been found. He wants troops there to this day. However, in this debate he suddenly supported the scheduled withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014, (again, because this position has become more popular, but Romney would never follow through). In the same speech he criticized Obama for not expanding the military. Obama also pointed out he called Russia the “largest geopolitical threat” that exists and he criticized Obama for signing nuclear treaties with Russia.

Mitt said “We want a peaceful planet. We want people to be able to enjoy their lives and know they’re going to have a bright and prosperous future, not be at war. That’s our purpose.” He also said “we can’t kill our way out of this.” But his plan is just that. He wants to put $2 trillion more into the already absurdly bloated US military that has bases in 150 countries. He said in his next monologue “Well, my strategy is pretty straight forward, which is to go after the bad guys, to make sure we do our very best to interrupt them, to kill them, to take them out of the picture.” He also praised drone strikes in the debate and said we should increase the use of this technology. Unfortunately, both candidates seemed to agree this technology is productive because killing people from a distance without a human pilot is less risky for the US military in the short-term (and more cowardly).

Mitt also condemned the Pashtun people, a large ethnic group, also called ethnic Afghans: “It’s important for the success of Afghanistan. Because inside Pakistan, you have a — a large group of Pashtun that are Taliban.” There are 50 million Pashtuns, and about 30 million live in Pakistan. They are the second most populous group in Pakistan, so to condemn them all or the majority is simply racial hatred.

Because of Romney’s accusations that Obama has not supported the military enough, Obama almost boasted:

“Our military spending has gone up every single year that I’ve been in office. We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined; China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, you name it. The next 10. And what I did was work with our joint chiefs of staff to think about, what are we going to need in the future to make sure that we are safe?” 

Obama also said “America remains the one indispensable nation. And the world needs a strong America, and it is stronger now than when I came into office.” It would be interesting to ask which nations are dispensable as I don’t think any one nation sees itself as expendable.

Romney made the same criticism of Obama for downsizing the Navy that he did in the first debate: “Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out the mission. We’re now at 285.” (I’m not sure which mission he’s referring to.) In an amusingly condescending way, Obama explained why this doesn’t matter:

“You mention the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1917. Well, Governor we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go under water, nuclear submarines.” 

Romney mentioned in the debate that the Secretary of Defense called Obama’s proposed one trillion cut to military, “devastating.” However, the innocent families that live in countries fearing US attack likely feel much differently. These cuts were proposed by congress anyway. Furthermore, why should anyone care what the secretary of defense and former CIA director, Leon Pannetta, has to say? I wonder how he’ll cope with the hundreds of billions left to conduct America’s wars for corporate hegemony?

An increase in the military budget just means more tax money funding the invasion of more countries we don’t need to be fighting. It also means more American and foreign lives lost, and it means a surge in the profitability of corporations that supply and finance war. It would cause the “security dilemma” to escalate as more and more people resent America as a military tyrant.

Regardless of his intentions, Mitt Romney doesn’t know how to create peace. This was made clear by his criticism of Obama for meeting with authoritarians:

“The president in his campaign four years ago, said he would meet with all the world’s worst actors in his first year, he’d sit down with Chavez and Kim Jong-il, with Castro and President Ahmadinejad of Iran. And I think they looked and thought, well, that’s an unusual honor to receive from the President of the United States. [I doubt this is what they thought.] And then the president began what I have called an apology tour, of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America. I think they looked at that and saw weakness.”

The rulers Mitt mentioned as the “worst actors” are very different and hardly the worst rulers of the world. Why no criticism is made of American leaders being friendly with the Saudi Royal family that runs a government which stones, whips, and beheads Saudis (including women accused of being raped) as capital punishment is apparent in their oil reserves. Romney can hardly claim to be for peace when he doesn’t even support dialogue with foreign rulers. When Obama rejected ever apologizing, Romney continued, “You said that America had been dismissive and derisive. You said on occasion that America had dictated other nations. Mr. President, America has not dictated other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.” This is absurd. America dictates what the world should do every day and its elections are hardly democratic. (If you don’t believe this, research the Electoral College and the Supreme Court decision that made Bush president.) Just about the only dictatorship America has ever dissolved was the Nazi Regime, and they weren’t alone. America captured Bin Laden, but what is less known is that they also helped to put him in power. America has put countless dictators in power like Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam, Mohammed-Reza Shah Pahlavi in Iran and Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas in Guatemala. Millions have died as a result of US backed dictators, as well as from failed US foreign policy.

During Operation Condor, the US also put dictators in power all over Latin America and trained death squads that terrorized innocent people of Columbia and Latin America. “Plan Columbia” also brought USG terrorism to Latin America. Mitt wants America to be an unapologetic, unfailing tyrant that can never admit any wrongdoing, except he criticizes the Obama administration in every debate. The American government has ravaged the world and it should be apologizing for it. It is right to apologize to everyone who has been harmed by America’s imperialist, misanthropic, ecocidal policies. We shoudn’t pretend these atrocities never happened while expanding our military and taking an antagonistic approach to everyone critical of America. Somehow people have become convinced that war is inevitable and that it will always exist, but it doesn’t have to. The people in charge of “defense” create these problems.

Both candidates also both talked about the crippling sanctions on Iran and Pakistan as though they are accomplishments. Mitt was quick to claim he was the first to suggest crippling sanctions in Iran. But Obama pointed out that “while we were coordinating an international coalition to make sure these sanctions were effective, you [Romney] were still invested in a Chinese state oil company that was doing business with the Iranian oil sector.” Mitt had no response to this particular criticism.

Obama continued, “We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy. Their currency has dropped 80 percent. Their oil production has plunged to the lowest level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago. So their economy is in a shambles.” And this means innocent Iranian people who have no connections to terrorism are struggling, starving, and hurting the most from these sanctions.

Crippling sanctions never work without massive casualties. Pakistanis and Iranians should not starve because Iran’s President wants to expand the country’s nuclear program.  Trade restrictions and food aid should not be contingent on their government’s willingness to reduce arms. People still need food, regardless of what the government is doing with its nuclear program.

Obama and Romney also made it clear in the debate that they want the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad out, which would be hard to argue with since 30,000 Syrians have been killed under his rule, but they have different ideas on how this should be done. Mitt’s solution for Syria is to give insurgents heavy arms, essentially creating a proxy war. Obama’s response was that we have to make sure “We’re not putting arms in the hands of folks who eventually could turn them against us or allies in the region,” which is usually the case when the USG arms foreign countries in turmoil.

Romney also explained that we must reduce Muslim extremism in order to create peace. This is a good point but he didn’t explain how to do so, and I would suggest Romney, a Mormon zealot, reduce his own extremism, before trying to reduce anyone else’s. I don’t think he has a clue how to reduce extremism because he believes extremism is a feature of certain, “troublesome” religions. Muslim extremism is a problem, but the larger problem is extremism of any kind, be it Christian, Jewish, or any other kind. Those can be just as dangerous, and the way to reduce extremism is by giving people who hate Americans a reason not to. (Not bombing them would be a start.) If the entirety of the population of Middle East had homes, adequate, nutritional food, clean water, healthcare, and quality education, terrorism would be nearly absent. That is the best anti-terror strategy.

As stated aside from America’s “security threats,” China was mentioned as an economic foe. Both candidates explained China isn’t “playing by the rules,” which is true, but the recent boom in their economy is mostly due to the fact that the Chinese are willing (and forced in some cases) to work for less money than Americans. The exploited Chinese workforce (which includes children and large sections of the prison population) has toiled to improve their economy. Neither of these facts were mentioned. Instead they talked about the Chinese “stealing jobs and patents” from America. But they should have been calling for better working conditions and autonomy for Chinese workers.

In the debate, Obama pointed out why Romney’s position on trade tariffs is flawed: “If we take your advice with respect to how we change our tax codes so that companies that earn profits overseas don’t pay U.S. taxes compared to companies here that are paying taxes, now that’s estimated to create 800,000 jobs, the problem is they won’t be here, they’ll be in places like China.” These jobs would also likely be very exploitative.

Just as in the last debate, the candidates had their non sequiturs, some that had nothing to do with foreign policy. Romney started his own narrative about education, which Obama was forced to respond to. Romney bragged about how fourth and eighth graders in Massachusetts achieved the highest scores out of any state, to which Obama responded bluntly, “But that was 10 years before you took office.” Romney’s reply was “The first — the first — the first — and we kept our schools number one in the nation. They’re still number one today.” Romney also mentioned the importance of balancing the budget: “I was in the world of business for 25 years. If you didn’t balance your budget, you went out of business,” (like many of Mitt’s former businesses).

Mitt just tried to squeeze as much pro-America rhetoric into his two minutes as possible.  If you read my summary of the first debate, you may remember I criticized Romney for using phony pathos and rhetoric and mentioning individuals he met from adorable towns like Appleton Wisconsin. As if he read my last post, he yet again mentioned the same woman from Appleton Wisconsin. This may seem trivial, but couldn’t he have found another adorable town name or another woman? Sally Love from Butterscotch Valley, Virginia perhaps? He must really want her vote.

I question the value and sincerity of all of this pandering to the middle class of America. What is this constant Americentric rhetoric supposed to achieve aside from inspire the dim-witted? Does support for your country mean support for its people or unconditional support for its government? Those two positions are very different, since the officials who are supposed to represent the people often don’t.  Furthermore, why should anyone’s support or compassion be limited to those who live within arbitrarily defined US borders drawn up by blood and conquest? The myth of American exceptionalism is dying as more people wake up and realize what the USG has really done.

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