By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address is now history. It has been labeled “progressive,” “partisan,” “one of the best ever” and “pedestrian.” Whatever the positive or negative take on its content, the speech was largely about America’s domestic concerns. The limited internationalism highlighted in the speech lacks significant support from the American people, especially those who got him reelected.
The economy, jobs and the budget deficit dominate public concerns in the United States, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. More than eight-in-ten Americans think Washington should pay less attention to problems overseas and more attention to issues at home. And such isolationist sentiment has increased 10 percentage points in the last decade.
By Jon Alterman, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jon Alterman is head of the Middle East program for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The views expressed are his own.
Much of the talk about the U.S. “Pivot to Asia” has one thing wrong: it is not a pivot away from the Middle East. That is not to say that some in the Obama administration don’t wish they could pivot away from the Middle East, or that the U.S. Central Command isn’t exhausted from fighting wars for more than a decade. Both are true. Instead, it is to say that Asia’s ties to the Middle East are growing vigorously, and a U.S. commitment to Asian security necessarily means the United States inherits Asia’s growing interests in the Middle East.
The United States cannot pull out of the Middle East. Rather, its increasing engagement with Asia means that it is increasingly getting pulled into the Middle East, although from the other side.
By Sarah Margon, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Sarah Margon is the deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are her own.
Second terms are when presidents start to think about their legacy. And with a first term that earned President Barack Obama strong national security bona fides, he has the opportunity to pursue a robust foreign policy that more closely aligns U.S. values and interests. Historically, many presidents have supported such an agenda, but few have been able to follow through for fear of looking weak. Freed from the political constraints of his inaugural four years, and with two-thirds of Americans, according to polls, confident in his ability to handle major national security challenges, Obama can now stop paying lip service to this ideal.
The foundation for such an approach already exists. In 2011, Obama asserted that a “strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of [core national security interests] will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind. Failure to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people will only feed the suspicion that has festered for years that the United States pursues our interests at their expense.”
By Patrick M. Cronin, Special to CNN
Patrick M. Cronin is senior advisor and senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C. The views expressed are his own.
Mounting tensions over the East and South China Seas are threatening to torpedo the Asian Century. China and the Philippines locked horns near Scarborough Shoal this past spring. Now, China and Japan are in the midst of a dangerous standoff over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. The United States, bound by treaty to help defend Japan, is caught in the middle of this fracas. America’s power and purpose are in jeopardy if the world’s three largest economies cannot step back from the brink.
The proximate cause of the problem is China’s insistence on creating a new status quo. A weaker China once kept mum over the islands, but a stronger China is reasserting its historical claims. Japan is equally convinced of its sovereignty, having regained control over the islands as part of America’s 1972 reversion of Okinawa. Japan rightfully worries about Chinese “salami tactics” that seek to gain territory one slice at a time. After all, China does not recognize Japanese sovereignty over the Ryukyu Islands and some even claim the “ancient Chinese kingdom” of Okinawa. Japan’s muscular use of its Coast Guard, coupled with occasionally inflammatory public utterances about history, only fuels nationalist sentiments.
By Shen Dingli, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Shen Dingli is director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, Shanghai. This is the last in our series of articles looking at how the world views the presidential election. The views expressed are his own.
As Americans head to the polls to elect their president, many in China – which itself is seeing a leadership transition – are watching closely.
Being the incumbent, President Barack Obama has the resources and visibility that come with his office at his disposal, and incumbents in recent years have generally fared well in U.S. elections. And Obama’s health care reforms – which he has argued will benefit tens of millions of Americans – would likely be enough to sway many Chinese, were they allowed to vote.
But what of U.S. policy toward China?
By Erik Voeten, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Erik Voeten is an associate professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and Government. He blogs at The Monkey Cage. The views expressed are his own.
Last night’s foreign policy debate contained few surprises. As expected, both candidates sought to bring the focus back to domestic issues whenever they could. Each candidate vied to convince the public that he loved Israel more and that he would be tougher on China. Each tried to sound strong without coming across as bellicose. David Brooks observed in the post-debate analysis that Romney mentioned peace more than George McGovern ever did. On most issues, Romney did not disagree much with the strategies pursued by the Obama administration. He just claimed that he would have executed them better.
This is not unusual. On foreign policy, the candidates mostly try to persuade the public that they are competent. Partisan differences towards foreign policy issues are relatively minor, at least during this election season. The key is to convince the public that when you are in charge, Americans will be safer and more prosperous, more “bad guys” will be killed, and more “good guys” will live happy productive lives and thank the United States of America for it.
By Jason Miks
Fareed Zakaria discusses the importance of the third and final presidential debate taking place tonight in Florida, and looks at the issues likely to be tackled.
How many Americans really care deeply about foreign policy issues?
Well, the substance of the issue they don't care about. Foreign policy is a little bit different from domestic policy. In domestic policy you’re trying to see whether the candidate agrees with you or whether you agree with him. It’s often a checklist of things: abortion, the economy, taxes.
Foreign policy is really a prism through which people look at the character of the person, the values, the strength, the consistency. So it is important, but not in a direct way in the way that domestic policy is.
By Council on Foreign Relations
Editor’s note: The third and final presidential debate will focus exclusively on foreign policy and national security. Four CFR experts weigh in on the questions and issues they believe warrant discussion. This briefing was originally published here. The views expressed are the authors’ own.
Stephen Biddle, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy
We know both candidates want to bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan. And we know they have about the same timetable for doing it. What we don't know is how this will secure our interests there.
The war is likely to be stalemated in 2014 when the U.S. combat role ends and the Afghans take the lead. To maintain that stalemate will require multiple billions of dollars a year to keep Afghanistan's security forces in the field. If we’re going to keep writing these checks, what’s the plan for bringing the war to a successful conclusion after 2014? Is there one?
By Jason Miks
Earlier this week, GPS asked readers which foreign policy issues the presidential candidates should be discussing. The discussion in the second debate, on Tuesday night, focused largely on Libya, specifically the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens. But readers also had some other ideas about what they want discussed. With the third and final presidential debate taking place Monday, and with foreign policy as the theme, here’s what GPS readers say they are looking for:
“Mithila Saraf” was one of many who suggested that Iran’s nuclear program should be the key U.S. concern.
“Between America’s commitments to Israel and the escalating tensions between Iran and several of its neighbors, America’s action (or inaction) in this matter will be vital to how the situation unfolds,” Saraf said. “So far, the Obama administration has held a firm verbal stance, but there has been little inclination towards physical force. Several Republicans have expressed…that they would want to change that.”
By Danielle Pletka, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Danielle Pletka is Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. The views expressed are her own.
The pressure’s on President Barack Obama for a stellar debate performance tonight, but the discussion has been dominated by questions of style over substance. Much as Obama’s somnolence is the lingering impression of the first presidential debate and Vice President Joe Biden’s manic performance saturated the second, the third is likely to be an exercise in prurience. Who will sigh? Who will squeeze into the other’s personal space? Will Romney finally admit he prefers the 53 percent? Will Obama pronounce some mysterious Arabic phrase as only a Muslim would?
But there are serious questions to be answered by each man, and their answers should illuminate the race more than any turn of phrase or unseemly grin. Presumably, as this is a town hall format, the public will dominate the topics, which means that questions on unemployment, taxes, healthcare and education will come before national security. That’s only natural, but we are at war, and the American people deserve some answers from the commander-in-chief and the man who seeks to take his job.
Tomorrow night, the U.S. presidential contenders will discuss domestic and foreign policy at a town hall meeting style debate in New York state. But what exactly should they be talking about?
Two surveys last month by polling firm Rasmussen found that more than half of Americans believed national security and the war on terrorism were very important issues, while a third said Afghanistan is also of key importance. Meanwhile, a poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project last month found that half of Americans view China’s emergence as a major world power as a threat to the United States, while three quarters of members of the public said that the large amount of U.S. debt held by China was a very serious problem.
Global Public Square invites readers to share their thoughts on the most important foreign policy issues facing the United States and to talk about why they matter to you. Do you want to see President Obama and Mitt Romney talking about Iran’s nuclear program? China’s currency? The Arab Spring? Or something else completely? We’ll be rounding up and publishing some of the best responses later this week.
In a major speech two weeks before he debates President Barack Obama on international issues, Mitt Romney argued that Obama is failing to provide the global leadership needed and expected by the rest of the world.
Romney called for the U.S. to join allies in ensuring that rebels fighting government forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad get military hardware they seek. He also criticized Obama's overall approach to the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And he argued that last month's attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans "was likely the work of the same forces affiliated with those that attacked our homeland on September 11th, 2001."
What's the difference between the candidates' stances and what does this mean for U.S. policy? Fareed Zakaria weighs in on this and more in this edited conversation:
Q: One of the points you've brought up before is that these two candidates really see eye-to-eye on a lot of foreign policy issues. The only one that we really heard that was different was Romney's stance on arming the Syrian rebels. How does the United States go about doing that?
ZAKARIA: If you were to have listened to that speech, you would assume, atmospherically, that Romney had very strong disagreements with the Obama administration, but his problem is that Obama has run a foreign policy almost like a moderate Republican. It's been internationalist. It's not been too liberal in the sense of human rights oriented. It's been tough. So the Syrian issue is the one place Romney can find to make a distinction. FULL POST