Off The Map

Foreign affairs were missing, and missed, in debate season

Late in last night’s debate, after a brief discussion of Russia’s upcoming “election” and extended, familiar, plowings of the few domestic issues that have made the race, Hillary Clinton made this extended point:

We could have gone around the world. We could have gone to Latin America and talked about, you know, the retreat from democracy. We could have talked about Africa and the failure to end the genocide in Darfur.

We could have gone on to talk about the challenge that China faces and the Middle East, which is deteriorating under the pressures of Hamas, Hezbollah, and the interference that is putting Israel’s security at stake.

Hear, hear. We’ve had 20 Democratic debates, and just about as many on the Republican side. Not one has focused on foreign policy.

Iraq, of course comes up again and again, as it should. And we’ve had glancing blows at other hotspots—Israel, Iran, Pakistan, and the like.

But there’s a wide world out there, full of problems, conventional and non. You might not have known it, though, watching these debates. It certainly shows something that the most prominent campaign-season foreign policy tiff between Clinton and Obama sprung from a viewer-submitted YouTube question.

And considering how much latitude presidents have in international affairs, it would be (would have been?) nice to hear about them. Building off what Clinton mentioned, here’s a further back of the envelope list.

North Korea NATO expansion China (Taiwan, human rights, influence in Africa) Global AIDS/contraception The World Court East Timor Lebanon Kenya United Nations reform Foreign aid/global anti-poverty

I would say that’s just for starters—but, as far as the primaries go, it’s too late to start.

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.