WAMC — for Oct. 25
Steven Leibo is the Sage Professor of International History & Politics
Like A lot of Americans I sat down Monday evening hoping to hear an intelligent discussion of America’s role in the World. Ok, hoping is probably the wrong word — I am well aware that this is the silly season. A time when the most absurd utterances, from misleading statements to outright lies overwhelm the airwaves.
And I certainly understand that a politician’s job, especially a politician in the middle of an election, has a very different job from mine. Sure, they might talk about the same international issues I do every day, babbling away about everything from China to the Middle East. But the idea that we are doing the same thing really is absurd. My job after all is to change my audience, to give them new information, new insights, new perspectives on the world. While a candidate’s job is not to change their audience but to appear in sync with them.. to have each potential voter point at the screen and say “yes, that guy’s got it right!”
And talk they did. Each of them competing to appear more supportive of Israel than their rival, each competing to appear even more suspicious of China than their rival. because quite frankly a different stance on either topic just does not work at election time. And of course there were more core issues that really do separate the candidates.
For Romney a nostalgic a sense of an America that sees us demanding global leadership whether the international community wants to follow us or not. While Obama sees a world where America plays a role more akin to the first among equals, powerful yes, but hindered by our own economic limitations and the growth of newer voices on the international scene.
A recognition of the changing circumstances appropriate for a new century that will probably not win him many votes among those who have less of a sense of how much the world has changed while we rested on our laurels like aging victors of an earlier era.
But what was really appalling about the debate was that neither man had the strength to actually educate the public about the real dangers that face America and the world. Sure they babbled about whether al Qaeda type terrorists were getting stronger or weaker, whether Iran was closer or farther from getting the bomb.
But terrorists are quite frankly just not that powerful, and the likelihood of Iran starting a nuclear war against enemies infinitely better equipped with those same nuclear weapons is not all likely. No what really threatens America’s security as the election looms in the late fall of 2012 is the fact that even as arctic ice hit an all time record low this last summer 2012 looks likely to turn out to be hottest year in recorded American history.
Because however clever Bin Laden’s followers are they can simply not compete with a climate system gone mad. They cannot compete with the pain and suffering inflicted on more and more people from the increasingly more common and massive flooding we have seen from across the world to the equally common drying out of so much human terrain that it is causing enormous areas of drought such as hit the US this summer.
No, Terrorists simply can not compete for shear human suffering with a world of ever more common food crop failures nor can terrorists compete with the arrival to our shores of more and more dangerous tropical diseases. Yes, diseases that stalk us ever more commonly as our climatic patterns become more hospitable to diseases most Americans have never heard of.
No, President Obama may claim the first job of the American President is to keep its citizens safe. And yes he pushed through the biggest boost in safer green energy in American history while Governor Romney remains infatuated with the 18th century’s favorite energy source, king coal. But neither candidate has had the guts to speak honestly about the real threats that face us from a climate system gone haywire by our recent but ravenous addiction to fossil fuels.