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Lost and missing in that (Third) Debate!

It is a generally accepted fact that Americans are insular and fairly ignorant, and disinterested, about anything outside their borders.    It is therefore of interest to consider this last debate between Obama and Romney which was to headlined to "discuss" foreign policy issues.   One might fairly say, oh yes?

"Debates are more about scoring points than elucidating problems, just as presidential elections turn more on perceptions of character than on policy promises. But even so, Monday night’s American presidential debate on foreign policy presented a skewed vision of the world, even one defined by American national interests.

Iran was mentioned more than 45 times, Israel and China more than 30 times each, Afghanistan 29 times and Mali at least four times. NATO was not uttered, and Europe was referred to only once — in a list of allies read off by President Obama — and the euro and its crisis were not mentioned at all.

Mitt Romney did, however, state twice that he would not let the United States and its domestic debt go the way of Greece."


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"There was no mention, let alone discussion, of the role of Turkey or its dilemma as a Muslim nation sharing a border with Syria, no discussion of the aging royal family of Saudi Arabia and its sponsorship of radical and conservative Islam, no mention of Somalia or Islamist threats to allies like Jordan and Morocco. There was a glancing reference to the Palestinians, but no discussion of their divisions, of the role of Hamas, of the separate status of Gaza, of the weakening grip of Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement, of what might happen if and when Mr. Abbas, the Palestinian president and leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, leaves the scene.

And there was no criticism of Israel, its settlements or its occupation of the West Bank. Mr. Romney did say that Mr. Obama had not visited Israel as president even after his 2009 visit to Cairo in which he pledged a new era in relations with the Muslim world.

Mr. Obama responded with descriptions of an earlier visit as a legislator, but Mr. Romney missed an opportunity to respond tartly, for even top Obama aides concede that failing to go quickly to Israel after Cairo to make a similar speech and then calling for a “settlement freeze” in East Jerusalem, instead of in the larger West Bank, were errors.

Even on the question of American military strength, there was little debate other than numbers. Mr. Obama is right that the United States has more aircraft carriers than any other nation, and got off a good line about bayonets and horses and the game Battleship. But the United States is reported to have only 11 carriers, and carriers are increasingly vulnerable to more sophisticated longer-range missile attacks.

As for Europe, the lack of attention made perfect sense. Europe is an ally, not a policy dilemma, and the crisis of the euro zone has been technical, lengthy and tedious, and seems to be losing steam. America’s own debt problems dwarf those of Europe.

But the French daily Libération asked: “And what about Europe? It isn’t far from Australia in the competition for the status of the most forgotten continent.” But silence was good for Europe, the paper said. “At least the euro crisis isn’t brandished by Obama as a major source of economic trouble for America, and Romney has stopped making ‘European socialism’ his campaign scarecrow.”

On the Internet and on Twitter there were thousands of reactions to the debate. But speaking for many was @jonathanwatts, a Latin American correspondent for The Guardian, who wrote: “Obama won this debate. World lost. Apart from 5 mins on China, it was all Middle East. Where was LatAm, Europe, climate?”

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