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Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Chief Diplomat: Obama or Romney?

The Chief Diplomat: Obama or Romney?
An Analysis of the use of Collaborative Language by the Presidential Hopefuls

C. R. Leier

In an increasingly globalized and interconnected world, maintaining and strengthening international relationships is critical to the future of America. The tragedy of the global financial crisis and countless international conflict sharply remind us that a nation’s economic success and homeland security is dependent upon fostering collaborative relationships with other countries.

The President of the United States serves an important role as the leader of the country’s public diplomacy mission. Public diplomacy is the nation’s effort to promote interests by maintaining and strengthening relationships between the United States and citizens of the rest of the world (McHale, 2010). The State Department describes the ongoing process of promoting national interests is accomplished “through understanding, informing, and influencing foreign audiences of US values beliefs, and policies (Hughes, 2007).”

The 3rd and final Presidential debate on foreign policy provided an ideal platform with which to compare the two presidential hopefuls on their ability to represent America as our Chief public diplomat. Given the International media coverage of US politics, it is important to consider the way in which each of the two candidates is perceived. Further, is important to evaluate the way in which each candidate communicated ideals of collaboration with foreign governments. 

The Obama and Romney Face-Off
Libya. Obama started by ensuring that those guilty of killing Americans would be brought to justice. Further, we stand with the “tens of thousands of Libyans” who were marching in support of American, declaring friendship. 

Romney declares his strategy for the Middle East is declaredly to “go after the bad guys…interrupt them, to- to kill them, to take them out of the picture”. His strategy is also to get the Muslim world to “be able to reject extremism on its own.” Our aim is to go after the Jihadists, and “help the Muslim world”.

Both candidates expressed disproval of extremism, although Romney’s “bad guy” is vague and Obama’s depiction of our Libyan allies is rather positive.

The Middle East. Generally, Romney’s notes that “Iran is the greatest national security threat we face”. In addition, he does not plan to give Putin additional flexibility because expectedly, Putin will get more of a “backbone” after the election. 

Obama positions that strong leadership is important in the Middle East in gaining allies for “supporting our counterterrorism efforts”. We need to “make sure that they are standing by our interests in Israel’s security, because it is a true friend and our greatest ally in the region”.

Romney’s Middle East discussion may have burned a few of his bridges; Obama seemed to have strengthened a few of his. 

Syria. Obama echoed “Syrians are going to have to determine their own future.” In describing our strategy in Syria, Obama describes that the US is in consultation with our partners in the region, and we are “coordinating with Turkey and other countries in the region that have a great interest in this.” Romney declared “Assad must go” and the “we want to make sure that we have the relationships of friendship with the people that take his place… They need a government that is “friendly to us”.

A collaborative relationship is clearly articulated by the president. Conversely, Romney more vividly envisions the kind of Syria he hopes to see.

Israel. Both candidates expressed a deep affinity with Israel. Obama describes that “Israel is a true friend”, Romney adds “We will stand with Israel… we have their back”. Obama goes on to express discordance with Iran, and that we have crippled Iran’s economy, a country that is a sponsor of Terrorism. Obama is not happy with Iran.

Pakistan. Romney details that aid to Pakistan is conditional, upon them “meeting certain benchmarks” and “becoming a civil society”. Further, “Pakistan is — is technically an ally, and they’re not acting very much like an ally right now”. Obama justifies the exit of Afghanistan by describing that “Afghans are perfectly capable of defending their own country”.

China. Both candidates envision a trade relationship with China that “works for us”. Obama envisions that “China can be a partner, but we’re also sending a very clear signal that America is a Pacific power…China is both an adversary, but also a potential partner in the international community if it’s following the rules.” 

Romney vision of a Chinese relationship describes that “We can work with them, we can collaborate with them, if they’re willing to be responsible.” Romney continues, and labels China as a “currency manipulator, which allows us to apply tariffs where they’re taking jobs. They’re stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods…I want a great relationship with China. China can be our partner, but — but that doesn’t mean they can just roll all over us and steal our jobs.”

Both candidates use very clear and powerful language to convey that our relationship with China is a tenuous one. For better or worse, Romney’s language was slightly more combative than President Obama’s.

Honorable Mention. Two topics were weakly discussed in the presidential debate. First, the environment was absent from the 90-minute discussion of our world politics. Discussion of the environment would have been a useful discussion given the nature of public diplomacy, the world has a common interest is protecting the environment. Second, Latin America was only briefly addressed with Governor Romney’s observation that “The opportunities for us in Latin America we have just not taken advantage of fully”. Our engagement with the world should include a plan of how we hope to collaborate with our neighbors to the south.

Choosing our Diplomat
Public diplomacy is certainly not the President’s job alone, nor is it restricted to a 90-minute time block. In fact, public diplomacy should be continuously enacted by a variety all government leaders and citizens of the United States. However the President and his voice serve as the voice of America, and echoes to far reaching corners of the world.

The person we elect to be chief diplomat should communicate a narrative that reflects the voices of all Americans. While the 3rd presidential debate afforded the candidates to voice their foreign policy views and objectives, there is certainly no guarantee on the delivery of such promises. One guarantee is that Presidential rhetoric is heard loudly by foreign nations.  On November 6th, we should all consider which presidential candidate to nominate as the American voice.

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