In the last of the presidential debates, have the two main candidates convinced voters of their policies?
It was President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s last chance to distinguish themselves from each other on the same stage at Lynn University
“It was a remarkable statement from a Republican candidate for its moderation apart from the bit about “killing bad guys”, but what it wasn’t really was much detail. In questions about things like the Middle East peace protest, relations with the Muslim Brothers in Cairo, what to do about Lebanon – you name it – there was no substance there whatsoever – it was gross generalities.“
– Carne Ross, former British diplomat
The presidential contenders clashed over US military strength and how to deal with crises in the Middle East in a third and final debate, as polls showed them deadlocked two weeks before the November 6 election.
Foreign policy issues were the focus of the televised debate but despite the rhetoric, Romney appeared to be in agreement with Obama on issues such as the withdrawal of of US troops from Afghanistan and the threat presented by Iran’s nuclear programme.
However, there were other issues on which they disagreed such as when they discussed the military’s budget and size – Obama had a sharp response to Romney’s suggestion of increasing the number of ships built by the US navy.
Obama said the US should typically have 300 ships and only had 285, its smallest size since 1917. “Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets,” said the president.
Romney, wanting to make no mistakes that could blunt his recent surge in the polls, said Obama’s policies toward the Middle East and North Africa were not stopping a resurgence of the threat from al-Qaeda and growing extremism in the region, from Mali to Egypt.
“Attacking me is not an agenda,” said Romney. “Attacking me is not how we deal with the challenges of the Middle East.”
So on this special edition of Inside Story US2012, we ask: Did either candidate put forth a coherent vision for the US’s role in the world?
Joining presenter Shihab Rattansi to discuss the issues are former US diplomat, Hillary Mann Leverett, and former British diplomat, Carne Ross.
“What was astonishing to me … was the one question about Libya. And the one question that really could not be sharply asked or answered sharply was: Was the American ambassador in Libya actually killed by people who were armed, trained and funded by the United States and its so-called allies. That can’t be asked because both these candidates are about remaking the Muslim world and killing Muslims with drones. That’s not a serious policy – a serious policy should look squarely at what the United States is doing in terms of arming, funding and training people to overthrow their governments – that is not normal, constructive behaviour and it will come back to haunt the United States.
Hillary Mann Leverett, former US diplomat