It is likely only a select, fortunate few in the Middle East will ever have heard of Dansville, Kentucky. It is also improbable that many within the region would be able to pick the two vice presidential candidates out of a police line up.
However, those that did tune into the VP debate would certainly have recognized that their region was at the center of it; reinforcing the fact that this is a very important election not just for the United States but also for the Middle East and the world at large.
The two candidates could not have been more mismatched. Joe Biden was the experienced man of state, if overly gaffe prone and slightly too familiar with the occasional voter. Paul Ryan tried to live up to his Republican demagogue-in-chief label, but ended up looking a man who had spent too much time lifting heavy weights.
Talk centered, predictably, around three key topics: general foreign policy, Iran, and the events in Syria, with a little swerve to tax plans and Paul Ryan’s mathematically unsound desire to cut taxes by 20%, but keep the same benefits.
The Demagogue-in-Chief started by asserting that the Obama administration had failed in its duty to adequately protect the U.S. Ambassador to Libya. Underscoring his case, he pointed out that the U.S. Ambassador in Paris had a Marine detachment, so where was the one in Benghazi?
Gaffe-Force-Two immediately retorted that Ryan had been in Congress when $300 million had been cut from diplomatic protection. Touché. Curiously, no one asked why the Paris embassy had marines, seeing as it’s Paris, not downtown Baghdad. Or maybe it is — in the world of Paul Ryan — expect with more cheese, obviously.
Ryan then switched gears over Iran, affirming that “if [Iran] gets nuclear weapons, other people in the neighborhood will get nuclear weapons.” The slightly patronizing assumption that the Middle East can be equated to a ‘neighborhood,’ and sovereign nation states to ‘people,’ was actually a serious ploy. Used to make Americans think of what they would do if they had a nuclear armed, bearded crazy in their neighborhood. Stop them, of course, at any cost.
In the world of the demagogue, subtly, diplomacy, and a finer understanding of geopolitics are unnecessary. Just some heavy rock music and gung-ho attitude will suffice to put the region to rights. On this occasion, however, all it made Ryan look out of depth, clinging and clasping at any opportunity.
Whilst Ryan flailed around like a two year-old in a particularly shallow paddling pool, Biden was quietly chuckling, probably thinking, “man, what an inaccurate tool.”
Eventually, the now drowning Ryan was prompted on Syria. Proudly, although at this stage there was little he could be proud of, he said that the problem could be attributed to waiting for the UN.
Biden pounced, and finished him off "Gangnam style," "our allies are on the same page … we were the ones that said enough.” It was a rousing, and brutal, finale to Ryan’s debate aims.
Indeed, it was the stunning metamorphosis of Gaffe-force-two into experienced man of state, and the final death knell for a man who looks like he makes a living starring as an extra in fitness videos.
In the end, for those watching at home and abroad, it posited two choices. If the U.S. chooses the democratic ticket in November, then U.S. foreign policy might still have a chance of being on the right side of history. If, on the other hand, the Republicans come out victorious, we will all have to endure the ill-informed, badly managed, poorly executed, and glibly articulated foreign policy that marked most of the last decade — except this time with an overly muscled man in a tight suit leading the charge of the proverbial Light Brigade.