The foreign policy debate went poorly for Obama. Polls placed him around equal to Romney on debate performance, but that simply will not cut it. In order to make up for the devastation of the first debate focusing on economy, Obama had to sweep the foreign policy debate by a huge margin. This is especially true considering that foreign policy is touted as Obama’s strong suit. Romney sabotaged Obama’s plans, though, by projecting a false level of similarity to Obama’s foreign policy platform and by purposely steering the debate towards the economy.
However, there may be a silver lining for Obama in regards to foreign policy. The foreign policy situations in the Middle East have lined up in such a way that Obama could make some key foreign policy decisions to revitalize his campaign.
Washington has currently reached the limit of sanctions in Iran. Already sanctions are crippling the economy and yet the result is that Ahmadinejad continues his nuclear armament while his citizens’ quality of life continues to dampen under these sanctions. In a recent poll from The Foreign Policy Initiative, 62% of Americans said that they would be willing to go to any lengths, including military action, to keep Iran nuclear-free. Obama should capitalize on this and launch a joint U.S.-Israeli attack on Iran.
Syria has reached the breaking point. Although the majority of Americans currently oppose military intervention in Syria, this is largely because they have been fed rhetoric for months on why the situation in Syria makes military ventures like a no-fly zone more difficult than it was in Libya. Although the violence in Syria is much more intense than it was in Libya, the situations are relatively similar and it should be just as easy to launch military intervention. After all, by this point, even Russia and Iran have reduced aid to al-Assad significantly and the regime appears to be on its last legs. Thus, Obama should begin orchestrating a no-fly zone over Syria with cooperation from NATO allies.
Lebanon continues to be a major threat to Middle Eastern stability. Clashes between pro-al Assad forces and pro-rebel forces have leaked beyond the Syrian border and currently threaten the stability of Lebanon in the future. Hezbollah also offers a major obstacle to a Middle East Peace Plan involving a two-state solution. Military intervention in Lebanon will be the trickiest of the three as the United States does not have very strong grounds for such intervention. Though, Middle Eastern nations like Qatar and Saudi Arabia pulling for the U.S. to intervene in Syria would likely agree to reciprocate such intervention with assisting the United States in restoring order to Lebanon.
Throughout history, war has unified citizens and sparked nationalism. After all, even George W. Bush experienced approval ratings of over 90% just after declaring the War on Terror. Now, normally it would be completely unjustifiable for a presidential candidate to make a major decision that will impact the future of a country’s policy just days before an election. However, one key factor justifies Obama taking such action. Military intervention in Syria and Iran is almost guaranteed within a six-month timeframe anyways. After all, despite the most crippling of sanctions, Iran continues to pursue nuclear armament and Syria’s al-Assad regime has only increased the intensity of killing citizens. Lebanon seems relatively stable at the moment but its stability is being jeopardized in parallel to that of Syria albeit with a lag of about a year and a half. Thus, military intervention in Lebanon will soon prove vital as well.