The foreign policy debate voters want

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The winner’s views went like this:


“Candidate Miller says…Today, solutions to the world’s problems require international cooperation – we cannot do it alone. International cooperation is a better way of solving some of the world’s key problems. He says we need to work through international organizations like the United Nations to make sure America’s values and interests are respected around the world.”

With the next presidential debate hours away­ — and the same poll showing that international issues impact three in four voters’ decisions on Election Day — moderator Candy Crowley might consider asking the presidential candidates ­just how they stack up to “candidate Miller.” That is, since our most pressing global challenges require international cooperation, how should we partner with international organizations, such as the UN?

Voters have made their opinions clear. Eight in 10 said it’s best to work with major allies and through international organizations, versus acting mainly on our own. Further, when asked what query they would insert into the presidential debate, given the chance, the poll respondents’ top questions all touched on issues the United States is confronting at least in part through the UN. Specifically, the top questions on Americans’ minds are: What can the U.S. do to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan; what is each candidate’s Middle East strategy; and how can we address nuclear threats such as Iran? Each of these are issues on which our national interests are furthered through international cooperation.
 
Consider, for example, Afghanistan, where troop withdrawals are being aided by the UN mission’s work to disarm rebel groups, strengthen judicial systems and train police forces. Or the Middle East, where the UN is leading efforts toward aiding refugees, providing humanitarian aid, and facilitating free and fair elections. And while Iran has continued its uranium enrichment activities, recent multilateral and bilateral sanctions are having a pronounced impact, with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling them “the heaviest economic onslaught on a nation in history.”
 
As tonight’s debate kicks off the candidates’ formal dialogue on foreign policy, they­ along with Ms. Crowley would do well to keep candidate Miller’s approach in mind. In the face of some of the most complex global challenges in modern history, the United States cannot go it alone. Rather, international cooperation is critical to furthering our interests overseas. As the voters have stated, how we work with our allies and international organizations to confront our most pressing policy issues is a conversation that belongs at the forefront of this debate.

Yeo is vice president of public policy at the United Nations Foundation and executive director of the Better World Campaign. Previously he served as deputy staff director at the House Foreign Affairs Committee chaired by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and as deputy assistant Secretary at the U.S. State Department during the Clinton Administration.