THE WHOLE concept of a presidential debate on foreign affairs is, of course, nonsensical. World affairs are far too complicated, the nuances far too subtle, to be dealt with in this rough way. It would be like performing a kidney operation with an ax.
One could easily get the impression that the world is an American golf course, in which the US can knock the people around like balls, and the only question is which player has the more skill and selects the best club. The will of the people themselves is quite irrelevant. What are the feelings of the Chinese, the Pakistanis, the Egyptians? Who cares?!
I am not sure that most of the American viewers could find Tunis on the map. So it makes no sense to argue about the forces at work there, make distinctions between Salafists and Muslim Brothers, preferring these or those. All in four minutes.
For Romney, obviously, all Muslims are the same. Islamophobia is the order of the day, and Romney openly pandered to it. As I have pointed out before, Islamophobia is nothing but the fashionable modern cousin of good old anti-Semitism, seeping from the same sewers of the collective unconscious, exploiting the same old prejudices, transferring to the Muslims all the hatred once directed towards the Jews.
Many Jews, of course, especially the elderly in the nursing homes in warm Florida, are relieved to see the Goyim turn on other victims. And since the new victims happen also to be the foes of beloved Israel, all the better. Romney clearly believed that pouring his bile on "Islamists" was the easiest way to garner Jewish votes.
Trying hard to look tougher than Obama, Romney did, after all, come up with an original idea: provide the Syrian insurgents with "heavy arms." What does that mean? Artillery? Drones? Missiles? And if so, to whom? To the Good Guys, of course. And take care that they do not fall into the hands of the Bad Guys.
What a brilliant idea. But please, who are the Good Guys and who the Baddies? Nobody else seems to know. Least of all the CIA or the Mossad. Dozens of Syrian factions are at work -- regional, confessional, ideological. All want to kill Assad. So who will get the cannons?
All this made any serious discussion about the Middle East, now a region of infinite variations and nuances, quite impossible. Obama, who knows a lot more about our problems than his adversary, found it wise to play the simpleton and utter nothing but the most fatuous platitudes. Anything else -- for example a plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, God forbid, could have offended the dear inhabitants of the one old people's home which may change the outcome in Florida.
ANY SERIOUS Arab or Israeli should have been insulted by the way our region was treated in this debate by the two men, one of whom will soon be our lord and master.
Israel was mentioned in the debate 34 times -- 33 times more than Europe, 30 times more than Latin America, five times more than Afghanistan, four times more than China. Only Iran was mentioned more often -- 45 times -- but in the context of the danger it poses to Israel.
Israel is our most important ally in the region (or in the world?) We shall defend it to the hilt. We shall provide it with all the arms it needs (plus those it doesn't need).
Wonderful. Just wonderful. But which Israel, exactly? The Israel of the endless occupation? Of the unlimited expansion of settlements? Of the total denial of Palestinian rights? Of the rain of new anti-democratic laws?
Or a different, liberal and democratic Israel, an Israel of equality for all its citizens, an Israel that pursues peace and recognizes Palestinian statehood?
But not only what was parroted was interesting, but also what was left unsaid. No automatic backing of an Israeli attack on Iran. No war on Iran at all, until hell freezes over. No repetition of Romney's earlier declaration that he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. No pardon for the Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
And, most importantly: no effort at all to use the immense potential power of the US and its European allies to bring about Israel-Palestine peace, by imposing the Two-State solution that everybody agrees is the only viable settlement. No mention of the Arab peace initiative still offered by 23 Arab countries, Islamists and all.
China, the new emerging world power, was treated with something close to disdain. They must be told how to behave. They must do this or that, stop manipulating their currency, send the jobs back to America.