Tonight’s debate is supposed to be dedicated to foreign policy, but because of Trump’s ongoing implosion I suspect that many of the questions and even more of the statements will have little to do with that. Clinton will probably get out of Trump’s way while he he tries to staunch the bleeding from the last few days, and she’ll probably leave it to the town hall format to let Trump do more damage to himself. Trump will spend most of the night going on the offensive to direct attention to the Clintons, but it isn’t likely to work because it is the predictable desperation move that a candidate losing the election would make. Martha Raddatz will be one of the moderators, so in theory there will be someone capable of asking interesting foreign policy questions at the debate, but if previous debates are anything to go by most of the world will be neglected and the questions will be focused almost entirely on the Near East and terrorism.
Unfortunately, that means that foreign policy debate that we ought to have won’t happen, and the flaws in Clinton’s record that voters need to know about will be ignored. So here are a few questions that the candidates ought to be asked, but almost certainly won’t be.
To both candidates:
1) Yesterday, Saudi-led coalition planes repeatedly attacked a funeral hall in Sanaa and killed well over a hundred people and injured more than 500 more. This is just the latest in a long line of attacks on civilian targets by U.S. clients. The U.S. has been enabling the Saudi-led campaign for a year and a half with refueling, weapons, and intelligence support. If elected president, would you continue to enable such attacks, or would you withdraw U.S. support from the Saudis and their allies?
2) Do you believe that the U.S. should automatically support the actions of U.S. allies and clients? What sort of behavior from a client government would make you reconsider or end the relationship with them?
3) South Sudan is suffering from the effects of civil war, including the creation of near-famine conditions that threaten the lives of millions. The U.S. was instrumental in the process that led to South Sudanese independence and has supported the new government ever since. What obligations, if any, does the U.S. have to a new state that it helped establish?
1) You have described the intervention in Libya as “smart power at its best.” Given the ongoing disorder in Libya and the destabilization of the surrounding region as a result of that intervention, why should the American public trust your judgment to employ “smart power” when it produces such poor results?
2) You have said that you intend to “increase security cooperation with our Gulf allies, including intelligence sharing, military support, and missile defense to ensure they can defend against Iranian aggression.” In light of how the Saudis and their GCC allies have used existing U.S. assistance to batter and starve one of their neighbors, do you still favor increasing cooperation with them. If so, why?
1) You are perceived to be interested in a less confrontational relationship with Russia, but many people in your campaign, including your running mate Mike Pence, have expressed support for much more aggressive measures against Russia generally and in Syria specifically. Which Russia policy do you actually favor and why?
2) Nonproliferation and arms control experts consider the nuclear deal with Iran to be a success in terms of restricting Iran’s nuclear program. You have repeatedly denounced the deal as one of the worst deals ever made, and you have recited multiple false claims while doing so. Why should voters trust your judgment when you have so completely misjudged this important issue?
P.S. As usual, I will be covering the debate on Twitter (@DanielLarison). The debate begins at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.