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Published: Monday, 10/22/2012


Next round

Tonight, President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will square off in their final debate, devoted to foreign policy. Two topics in particular should be addressed:

Middle East. Mr. Obama withdrew U.S. forces from Iraq under the accord reached with that country by President George W. Bush. Both nominees are in rough agreement that the presence of U.S. forces in Afghanistan should end in 2014, although Mr. Romney’s position on the end date is wobbly.

Syria is in flames. Libya is close to chaos. Egypt is still finding its way back to order after its radical Arab Spring change of government.

America is exerting pressure on Iran to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapons capacity. If Shia Muslim Iran obtains nuclear weapons, Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states, Egypt, and Turkey might develop them also. That would turn what is already a dangerous region into one that destroys prospects for world peace.

This subject is complex and not given to sound bites. But the next president will have to deal with it from the beginning to the end of his term.

China. This country of 1.3 billion people is, in economic, political, and military terms, America’s primary rival. U.S. relations with China are vital to the present and future well-being of Americans.

The trading relationship is critical; the economic health of each country depends on the state of the other. America owes China more than $1 trillion.

There are other subjects to consider, but these two should dominate the discussion. Americans should hope the nominees resist the temptation to oversimplify their complexities.

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