The next presidential debate moderator on Friday announced the list of topics for the final match-up between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and foreign policy was omitted from what has traditionally been the foreign policy debate.
In response, Trump Campaign Manager Bill Stepien wrote a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates, declaring, “As is the long-standing custom, and as had been promised by the Commission on Presidential Debates, we had expected that foreign policy would be the central focus of the October 22 debate. We urge you to recalibrate the topics and return to subjects which had already been confirmed.”
There’s a pathetic irony to the fact that the Debate Commission opted to nix foreign policy from the debate stage the very same week the United Arab Emirates sent its first delegation to Israel to sign a deal permitting visa-free travel between the countries, the first Arab country to conclude such a deal with the Jewish state.
As I write this, Omar Saif Shobash, an adviser to the foreign minister of the UAE, is handing Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi a letter from his counterpart, declaring a formal request to establish an Emirati embassy in Israel. This is an unprecedented week in the Middle East that would have been unimaginable just five years ago under an Obama presidency, yet it will be lucky to make it onto the debate stage unless Trump can deftly shoehorn the remarkable events under the category of “national security.”
Given the partisanship of the selected debate moderators, it’s difficult not to view the latest attempts to silence foreign policy discussion through the prism of anti-Trumpism, especially given the foreign policy realm has been one in which the Trump administration has particularly excelled.
Indeed, this week is just a sampling of the larger foreign policy wins Trump has generated, in conjunction with an extremely active State Department under the auspices of Secretary Mike Pompeo. According to officials from the UAE, Bahrain, and Israel, Trump is to be credited with facilitating the conclusion of the historic Abraham Accords, which initiated the process of normalization between Israel and the two Gulf states.
To the left’s chagrin, Trump is to be credited with a significant amount of the peaceful gains in the Middle East, his administration bucking the traditional orthodoxy that pervades U.S. foreign policy circles. He engaged in a heavy-handed approach for which the perennially wrong “experts” rushed to condemn him, largely at the expense of their own credibility after their admonitions proved thankfully empty.
After the U.S. Embassy moved to Jerusalem, we were warned this would usher in World War III. Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal was supposed to herald an effective end to America’s respect in the Middle East. To no surprise, we were subjected to the same apoplectic mutterings after the killing of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani.
Fortunately, none of these dire predictions came to fruition. In fact, the precise opposite occurred. But few alleged “experts” were prepared to concede the deeply flawed nature of their once-readily-asserted analyses.
The unwillingness of foreign policy “experts” to accurately call balls and strikes in the Trump era offers a window into the appetite of the larger policy space to recognize foreign policy successes under this administration. This unwillingness is endemic to the political class, translating into the display we are witnessing among the Debate Commission, where there is an objective desire to shield the public from discussing these matters.
Simply because the foreign policy blob is unprepared to deal with the credibility fallout from years of failed Obama-Kerry policymaking does not mean Americans should be denied access to reasonable foreign policy discussions. There’s also possibly a fear (and rightfully so) that discussing Trump’s foreign policy will expose the lack of substance in Biden’s foreign policy approach, which has been a confused amalgamation of broken Obama-era initiatives and a few nonspecific generalizations. In short, it is incoherent.
If that’s the case, the American people deserve to know what they might be signing up for, and neither the biases of the Debate Commission nor the pride of the fallen foreign policy establishment should stop such transmission of information.
Erielle is a senior policy analyst at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) where she covers Iran and Israel. She is a former staff writer at The Federalist and a part-time law student at Georgetown University Law Center.
Originally published in The Federalist
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