What We Wanted To Hear Last Night

During last night’s foreign policy debate, President Obama and Governor Romney touched on a broad range of issues and topics, from sequestration to the military budget to the Navy — horses, bayonets, and all.  They even tied the conversation back to domestic policy, championing the need for good teachers and better education as well as a strong economy and more jobs in order to be strong abroad.

While they touched on the Middle East, at times they criticized each other without actually articulating the differences between their ideas with regard to that region. 

They also missed the opportunity to address our relationship with Latin America in any meaningful way.  Romney did suggest that there was a lot of potential in the Latin America but remained vague on his precise views of the region, and Obama failed to outline a policy for the region at all (but hey, he’s already got Hugo Chavez’s vote in the bag).

We’d like to focus on a few of the hot topics that they didn’t discuss, however, including the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea or Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), Guantanamo, cyber security, and ethanol’s effect on global food prices.

LOST would degrade U.S. sovereignty, and it is unnecessary thanks to customary international law, which is best protected by a powerful navy, not by a paper treaty signed at the U.N.  Thankfully, the treaty was blocked earlier this year.   However, some senators have indicated that they would like to act on this treaty during a lame-duck session.  Thus, conservatives will call for the president, either now or in the future, to withdraw the treaty entirely, and for senators to maintain their opposition to it.

Our sovereignty and the ability of our Navy to operate according to customary international law are in a precarious situation, but so too is the existence of something essential to our national security interests and to combating terrorism: the Guantanamo Bay Prison.  Heritage’s Edwin Meese III explains that the conditions of detention at this prison are “safe, secure and humane and comply with national and international standards, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.”   This facility is the best arena for “keeping [terrorists] off the battlefield” and “allowing for lawful interrogations,” which provides invaluable information that the U.S. can use to counteract terrorism.  At the beginning of his presidency, Obama promised to close down Guantanamo.  This would have been a rueful error, and it accounts for one of his many failed promises.  There is no better location to fulfill the valuable functions this facility has provided.

With regard to cyber security, Heritage’s Dean Cheng pointed out that the Chinese military is well aware of the importance of both space and cyber capabilities in enhancing military capabilities.  He admonished that the Chinese are not doing so aimlessly, but in a pointed way, so that they will be capable of “space dominance.”  In addition they are investing heavily in their “cyber warfare capabilities to exploit and attach computer networks.”  Heritage Action and Heritage have called for a conservative approach to cyber security which would be flexible enough to adapt to changing technologies, heavy on cyber security threat and vulnerability information sharing, and that would not place burdensome regulations on the private sector.

Finally, with regard to ethanol, the policies of the U.S. have only harmed global food prices through “the persistence of ethanol subsidies [which] only intensify the problem” of putting farmers out of business in countries like Haiti and Honduras.  Ethanol subsidies hurt our economy here at home and have negative ripple effects throughout the world, from Latin America to the Middle East.  Governor Romney called for cuts in our spending; ethanol subsidies — and a host of other subsidies — would be a great place to start.

Regardless of who wins the election, Heritage Action will remain vigilant and continue to advance conservative policies here at home because, as many Heritage experts wisely pointed out, “what we do at home matters more than how we treat [China]” or any other country, and “if America is truly going to continue to be an exceptional country and a strong voice for democracy and freedom abroad, our fiscal mess at home must be resolved.”

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