The first presidential debate wasn’t about debating and more about fighting. The candidates didn’t critique each other’s policy details. We didn’t hear real foreign policy details.
The debate was painful to watch. By the end, it was hard to decipher what was asked and who was supposed to answer. Because, neither candidate, I think, was there to discuss policy. That debate hardly yielded any policy details. There were three categories of questions but, looking back, I’m not sure how they fit into the discussion. It was the same criticisms and arguments we’ve heard on television.
My brain hurts but, in all, I don’t know if we’ve gotten anywhere post-debate. Except, I’m as convinced as ever that neither or two candidates understand the current predicament in the Middle East; maybe, national security as a whole.
The only part on Foreign Policy that resonated with me was a brief exchange concerning ISIS.
Trump had a decent critique, here. He said that our departure from Iraq, and how we did it contributed to the formation of ISIS. It’s true. There was a lot of high politics going on at the time. Hopefully, it’s a mistake we will not repeat in Afghanistan and Iraq, again. Their sparring continued and Hillary spoke of ISIL is greater detail than Trump but, it was still vague and simplistic. She said we ought to go after Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. If her logic is what I suspect based on previous statements. She wants to replicate the success of taking out Bin Laden. But, ISIS emerged afterwards, and Baghdadi is worse than Bin Laden in many ways.
More importantly, ISIL is a product of deeper, more fundamental issues in the Middle East that were spawned by more sane men then Baghdadi. Baghdadi is not some catch-all leader, like the “Brain Bug” from Starship Troopers. Except, it’s widely believed that ISIL’s strength is in the Baathist mid-level tactical commanders, (the hard men who were rejected from the government after the invasion and defected to Al-Qaeda in Iraq).
Trump’s answer for ISIL wasn’t a whole lot better. It was that we need to take care of them, quickly. His lack of a plan was cloaked in his claim that he will not reveal the plan to the enemy. Obama was heavily criticized for publicizing the Afghan theatre withdrawal date, something he did eventually revise. However, how we will deconstruct ISIL’s structure – which simply is – won’t be the same violation of OPSEC or telegraph specific timelines.
I was glad to hear them debate the cyber threat. But, they mainly agreed that it was an issue that must be addressed. I can only imagine that this debate must have been what people wanted. Not you, not me, but it was what many expected. A version of a reality tv show. This wasn’t debate, it was a series of character assassinations.
These issues are more complicated than the solutions we’re being fed. The discussion as a whole wasn’t focused, nuanced or interesting. It was more of the same that we’ve seen. Remarkably, the best place to hear a policy debate might be the Vice Presidential debate.
Featured image courtesy of www.foxbusiness.com.