Will Obama sit down with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? That is one question I hope not to hear in the next debate, as it has been "fact checked" too many times already.
Five former Secretaries of State have spoken in favor of engaging Iran without preconditions and even the Bush administration has sent a top diplomat to a multi-lateral meeting with Iran's nuclear negotiator. So why focus on precisely who meets with whom, particularly when it comes to Iran, a country with many different centers of power? It would be far better to hear the candidates talk about how they intend to try to keep sensitive nuclear technology out of Iranian hands. Republican Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin said last night that Iran "cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, period." But what does that mean in terms of policy?
The debate over Iraq and Afghanistan tends to get bogged down in semantics about "the surge" and whether or not it can be replicated in Afghanistan. Left unexplained: precisely what it will take to succeed in Afghanistan, and how the next administration intends to get European allies to do more to help.
And on Darfur, Barack Obama's running mate Joe Biden said, "I don't have the stomach for genocide when it comes to Darfur." Those were powerful words. Both camps have talked about the need for more support for United Nations/African Union troops and a no-fly zone over Darfur. But there are many questions about how a no-fly zone could be enforced and whether it would help or hurt aid workers on the ground. And there is another issue looming: how will the next President deal with a possible indictment by the International Criminal Court of Sudan's President Omar al Bashir. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told the Aspen Institute today that "the ICC should not be stopped from putting out indictments, otherwise it is really blackmail." But some on the UN Security Council are planning to try to stop the ICC from bringing charges against Bashir, arguing such a move would complicate peace efforts for Darfur. What should the US do to promote both justice and peace?
I'll be hoping for more details from McCain and Obama when they meet Tuesday in Nashville.