It’s actually comforting that President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney don’t disagree all that much at the start of their third debate on what the nation should be doing in the Middle East. They’re dancing on the head of a pin to find contrasts.
Things are messy and chaotic in Syria and Libya and elsewhere in the region. But change is like that, particularly when people are throwing off oppressive regimes of long duration.
On Syria, for instance, Obama and Romney agree Bashar Assad has to go. But they agree that we shouldn’t put boots on the ground. They agree we need to work with allies in world and the region. They agree we need to promote economic development and women’s rights in the Arab world. Neither man talked compellingly about is how exactly we do that. But at least they’re of one mind on the goal.
Romney wants to arm the Syrian insurgents. Obama cautions you have to know who you’re sending heavy weapons to, lest you find them turned against United States interests -- difference, but not a big one.
Where they don’t agree is what constitutes leadership.
The issue seems to come down to, should the United States always take the lead in every place and every situation in the world?
Good question. We need to have that debate. The American public may no longer have the stomach for that sort super-cop role.