The Washington Post asked foreign affairs analysts and other experts for their assessments of the first presidential debate. Michael Rubin and Danielle Pletka offered these thoughts:
Here, Washington navel-gazing hurts national security, for it transposes responsibility from Tehran and Pyongyang and assumes that blame lies in U.S. intransigence. Take Obama's identification of preconditions as a hindrance to diplomacy: Three U.N. Security Council resolutions demanded that the Islamic Republic suspend its enrichment. To waive this requirement would, in effect, cast aside these resolutions unilaterally, predetermine the outcome of negotiations and ruin the prospect that Tehran (or Pyongyang) would ever again take U.N. resolutions seriously.
Unfortunately, the American people's desire for peace is not shared by many dictators. In such a world, coercion matters as much as engagement. President Theodore Roosevelt sought to "speak softly and carry a big stick." When candidates seek, a century later, to speak softly and carry a big carrot, it is not diplomacy; it is naivete.
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at AEI.
vice president for foreign and defense policy studies
Unfortunately, what was missing from Obama's well-briefed presentation was a worldview that informs his disparate views about America's national security challenges. The presidency is not a defense of one's post-doctoral dissertation. Rather, leadership of the United States must be informed by a coherent worldview about how to address the threat of a belligerent Russia, a determined al-Qaeda, a menacing Iran and worse. While I now have confidence in Obama's ability to pronounce "Ahmadinejad," I remain confused about the guiding principles of a man who does not see the implications of defeat in Iraq for victory in Afghanistan and against al-Qaeda.
Danielle Pletka is the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI.