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Rzeczpospolita, Poland

American Map of the World

By Dariusz Rosiak

Translated By Michał Bolek

25 October 2012

Edited by Vic­to­ria Denholm

Poland - Rzeczpospolita - Original Article (Polish)

Barack Obama lost the first debate, Mitt Romney the second and American foreign policy the third. Neither candidate wanted to address foreign policy. Preferring, rather, to go back to the economy, finances, or convincing Americans how much they, rather than their opponent, are fit for the position of commander-in-chief of the largest military in the world. One can perhaps regard this as unimportant, since the point of the campaign is solely to win votes. Americans aren’t interested in sub-Saharan Africa or Germany, so there is no point talking about them.

Globe Is Shrinking

According to the U.S. presidential candidates, the shrinking of the world is not just a campaign ploy. The presidential debate provided an interesting illustration of the progressive elements of U.S. policies. If anyone was still under any illusions concerning the scope of American interest in the world (that is protecting American businesses), this debate opened their eyes.

The presidential candidates’ debate exposed the truth. What matters is the Middle East and adjoining countries, China and more broadly the Pacific Region. The rest, including Europe, is secondary from the American point of view.

During the debate blogger Matthew Yglesias published on Slate, “The World According to the 2012 Foreign Policy Debate.” Most of the world is blackened as non-existent. Countries in the east are Russia and China, then moving west there are Afghanistan and Pakistan. Next there are Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Then there’s a strip in North Africa, which consists of Egypt and Libya, and at the end of this incredibly shrunken version of the world is Mali. This is a reference to Romney using Mali as evidence to dispute Obama’s claim that global terrorism has been weakened during his presidency. Romney noted Mali as an exception to Obama’s claim.

Poland was not on the map – apparently the author didn’t hear Poland from Romney or regarded it (correctly, if he did) as have being inserted in the list of countries rather meaningless to the U.S. There was no mention of the most important U.S. ally on the other side of the Atlantic: Great Britain. They didn’t mention Europe at all. We can assume that in such a debate the candidates are only interested in what can help them to win the votes. They focus on what Americans are horrified by and what they can be intimidated by in order to present themselves as the only person capable of saving the nation. Apparently, Americans are not afraid of the Euro-crisis. In any case, they don’t see it as a real threat to American businesses. Similarly, the candidates didn’t have anything to say about India – the emerging power with a population of one billion people.

Defense of Israel

For many people – like the undersigned – who admire America and regard keeping its role as a dominating world power as necessary and are able to wake up at three o’clock in the morning to watch the presidential candidates’ debate, this spectacle must have been a disillusioning experience. Those 90 minutes showed who matters for the U.S. and who doesn’t. What matters is the Middle East and adjoining countries, China and the Pacific Region. The rest is secondary from the American point of view.

The most important countries are of course Iran and Israel – they actually appeared in the debate together. The issue can again come down to the pre-election needs. The attitude to Israel is one of few questions of the foreign policy which translates directly into the votes, not only of 6 million American Jews, but also for a much larger number of evangelical voters, for whom the necessity of Israel defense is almost a religious dogma.

Obama and Romney disputed who between them is a bigger hawk in terms of Iran, which is a farce in both cases. The former, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, not only continues the War on Terror and policy of limiting Iran’s influence initiated by George W. Bush, but he also made these policies take on a larger scope. In Obama’s term, the War on Terror has actually become a constant element of American foreign policy. Its most effective expression is attacks on the enemy with drones and commando groups that operate anywhere in the world, and are considered important by Washington in protecting their own interests. The European left wing can daydream about Obama all they want, but in fact he turned out to be a traditional American president who targets state objectives through all possible means.

Romney, encouraged by his own strategists, tried to convince the viewers that he’s a dove of peace (it’s was him, not Obama, who mentioned for example the Palestinians and lack of peace in the Middle East), but nobody in their right mind expects that U.S. military policy will ease after a Romney victory.

Dangerous Mixture

From the last presidential debate emerges a picture of politicians who understandably have their eyes fixed on the voters. The worry is that it’s also a picture of two leaders who are not especially interested in an America in a role of the world superpower but are ready to accept the shrunken version of the world, because that is now safer. Paradoxically, the stunted political ambitions are accompanied by the expansion of U.S. military action, especially drone attacks and special forces operations. Such a mixture is dangerous for everyone. The world seen from Washington is shrinking and none of the candidates feels like expanding it.



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