One major issue that has been MIA in 2016 debates is foreign policy; but voters deserve to know how Democrats will confront the many international crises now threatening global security.
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will take the debate stage tonight, just a few days before the next primary votes are cast.
Having watched these debates for months now, I am rather perplexed at the general void of foreign policy questions directed at these two contenders (the Republicans are another story). Perhaps Democrats prefer to focus on the economy, and I understand that is the top priority for voters of all political stripes.
But international relations and events are ignored at great peril.
Just this morning, Diane Rehm devoted her NPR show to discussing the devastating consequences of Syria’s ongoing civil war. Hearing from a range of perspectives, the one thing her expert panel seemed to agree on was this: things will get much worse before they get better.
What does worse look like? The Syrian city of Aleppo just had its water supply cut off, which means thousands of innocent residents are suffering. Stories emerged from the New York Times that tell of young people starving to death, while others try to make soup from grass.
President Bashar al-Assad continues to drop barrel bombs on his own people, and ISIS inflicts anguish through its own cruel and unusual brutality in the parts of Syria now under the terrorist group’s control.
In peace talks currently underway, Russia – who has entered the war on the side of Assad – wants a halt to all military action, to start in … March 1st of next year.
Over 250,000 Syrians have died already, and millions more are fleeing to the shores of Turkey and crossing the Lebanese border. In fact, 25% percent of Lebanon’s entire population now consists of Syrian refugees.
And the best-case scenario Russia offers is another year of this medieval violence?
Syria is one problem.
North Korea. Yemen. Libya. Iran. Palestine. The Zika virus in central and South America. The refugee and migrant influx in Europe. The ongoing crisis at our own southern border, with tens of thousands of minors entering the US.
The next president will need a head full of knowledge and a heart full of wisdom on how to proceed in all these places.
At the last debate, Bernie Sanders gave a rambling answer to a question on North Korea that amounted to a summation of Wikipedia facts. “I worry very, very much about an isolated country. That’s what makes me nervous. Russia lives in the world. China lives in the world. North Korea is a very, very strange country because it is so isolated, and I do feel that a nation with nuclear weapons… they have got to be dealt with.”
With Bernie gaining in momentum, the likelihood of his nomination demands that he give better answers than fact repetition to a serious question about North Korea.
Foreign crises affect us. Quagmire or no, as long as the Syrian war drags on, more refugees will show up on Europe’s shores, seeking asylum there and here.
That poses a security threat, never mind the moral question everyone seems eager to avoid. Namely, what duty do we have to stop citizens from being starved, tortured, barrel-bombed and otherwise gruesomely murdered in the name of a sick president or a sick ideology?
Don’t let us down, PBS. Bring back the foreign policy questions.
Photo: Flickr/Phil Roeder