Presidential Debate Schedule: Foreign Policy Topics to Keep in Mind Tonight

In a little under two hours, at 9 p.m. EST, Obama and Romney will begin their final debate focusing on issues of foreign policy. A majority of the debate will focus on the Middle East.

The anticipated debate topics include:

•  The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism

•  Our Longest War — Afghanistan and Pakistan

•  Red Lines — Israel and Iran

•  The Rise of China and Tomorrow’s World

•  America’s Role in the World

Before we begin bashing either candidate on their Middle East foreign policy credentials, it is important to keep in mind that rhetoric is rhetoric. What we need to be listening for in the final presidential debate are clear prescriptions and specific policy proposals.

Regardless of what is said, American foreign policy in the Middle East will remain strictly devoted to the policies and fears of Israel, and maintaining the existing rulers in the oil-producing countries that don’t disrupt our ideological interests. 

America cannot provide a Middle East and South Asia antidote, as it is clearly overextended financially, and militarily, and even diplomatically. What we need to hear is how each candidate can deliver what they promise, while understanding that much of what is taking place in the Middle East is a result of the dynamics and trends evolving in the region itself. 

Anti-Americanism is not limiting U.S. influence in the Middle East. But what is damaging is the evidence linking U.S. foreign policy and American values. Outcomes cannot be dictated; the United States needs to be aware that people in the region are becoming increasingly aware of their own power in politics. 

National polls show Obama and Romney are tied in the polls. This is Romney’s last chance to display his knowledge on foreign policy, as many ‘gaffes’ have seemed to  fuel criticism of his judgment and lack of experience in the foreign policy realm. 

On the other hand, Obama will have to defend his four years of foreign policy in office and refute criticism relating to the events in Libya, Syria, and Iran’s nuclear program. As pundits have given Romney a slight win in the first debate, and the same to Obama in the second, America will clearly be watching for an overall winner from all three debates tonight.

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Jamilah Al-Harake

Jamilah, an American-Lebanese originally from United States, lives in the Middle East. She received a B.S. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, studied professional development at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, and received a M.A. in International Affairs from the Lebanese American University in Beirut, Lebanon. She is an avid activist and writer, and has worked with the Carnegie Middle East Center, ILO, and UNHCR on numerous research projects in the region. She shares an unique interest in Lebanese, Syrian, and Iranian politics. She is educated and proficient in English, French, and Arabic.

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