Four Huge Global Issues The Candidates Didn’t Debate Last Night

Monday night’s Middle East-heavy question lineup angered a number of observers of international politics concerned that significant issues in the rest of the world won’t get the attention it deserves. ThinkProgress has previously highlighted five international issues — the India/Pakistan conflict, global disease and malnutrition, overfishing, America’s shadow war on terrorism, and the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — that were getting short shrift in the campaign debate. Given that last night’s debate failed to expand menu of topics beyond expectations, we’re picking out four more issues outside of the Middle East that the Presidential candidates should have discussed, but didn’t.


The Atrocities Prevention Board is one of the Obama Administration’s least well known, yet potentially most far reaching, policy initiatives. The Board’s goal is exceedingly ambitious – developing an effective system for predicting when an episode of mass killing might be about to escalate and then head it off, ideally without using American military force. This idea has come under fire from hawks who argue it’s a bureaucratic roadblock to effective preventative action. Whether Romney agrees with this critique, and whether Obama was willing to and capable defend his policy, would have been valuable topics of conversation given the legion of 20th and 21st century victims of mass murder.


A cornerstone of America’s Latin America policy for the past forty years has been drug eradication, partnering with and supporting local governments willing to use harsh tactics in an attempt to limit the spread of drugs in the United States. While President Obama laughs off the idea of changing American policy, Latin American countries are increasingly taking the issue into their own hands. Colombia and Peru are taking the lead on relaxing drug enforcement. A recent Summit of the Americas historically declared the War on Drugs a failure and pledged to look for alternatives, while new Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has called for a debate about legalization.


While it’s commonly lamented that this issue has been missing from the Presidential campaign, its absence is especially acute in a foreign policy debate, as the nature of the problem is intrinsically global and its victims will disproportionately be the world’s poor. A recent study found that the climate change could kill 100 million people, mostly residents of the developing world, by 2030. This is in part a consequence of geography and topography, but also the fact that the massive wealth of the First World gives it many more resources to prepare for the changing climate than poorer nations, despite the fact that the wealthy were responsible for most of the emissions causing the problem in the first place. Any effective solution to this nightmare will require international cooperation, so the question of how best to get that agreement would, in an alternative world, have been an important topic in Monday’s debate.


Reactionary racists in France. Neo-Nazis in Greece. Around Europe, the economic crisis appears to be fueling a resurgence of right-wing populism. Many of these groups have harsh anti-European Union views which could potentially complicate Europe’s attempt to put its economic house in order down the line, to say nothing of the consequences for the immigrant and minority groups against which they direct their anger. Moreover, the right-wing surge in Europe isn’t necessarily temporary: according to Matt Goodwin, an expert at the London thinktank Chatham House, “the big challenge that we’re going to see over the next 10 years is the rise of far-right groups and networks in Central and Eastern Europe.”