Commentators did not hesitate to express their indignation against the first 2020 presidential debate between Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden. The debate was characterized by the prevalence of hostility, insults, accusations, and constant interruptions. Some writers even described it as the most juvenile presidential debate in US history, explaining that it resembled the childish taunts of two youngsters wagging their tongues at each other after quarreling. The media called on the opponents to rise to the occasion by raising the level of discourse. However, in my opinion, the time for civilized classical debates has long passed and both opponents are fully aware that the media nowadays favors this type of vulgarity and animosity.
Moreover, it is important to keep in mind that the deep-rooted conflict between Trump and the Democratic party is very complicated and bitter. The Democrats have been waging a war against Trump ever since he took office; they impeached him and attempted to evict him from the White House twice on charges of treason and collusion with Russia and Ukraine. The Democrats have also pursued his men and imprisoned them. The media has also intensified its efforts and viciously attacked Trump and his family at every chance they got, fully believing that it is their patriotic and moral duty to bring him down, no matter the cost.
For his part, Trump also retaliated to this onslaught by aggressively accusing the media of being fake, corrupt, incompetent, and unpatriotic. In light of this ongoing hostility between the two parties, it is unreasonable for the audience to expect sophisticated eloquent debates that are tempered and civilized.
In our region, our concerns should not be these debates; we must focus more on where each candidate stands on foreign policy matters. The views of a US president can have major implications on the international arena.
For instance, President George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq on the pretext of spreading democracy in the Middle East, especially troubled regions – claiming that it is the best approach to address issues like poverty, terrorism, and chaos. This decision has entirely reshaped the entire Middle East.
Afterward, President Barack Obama took office, and his approach was the exact opposite of his predecessor. He favored political isolation and alienation and was against America’s global leadership role, believing in a multipolar system, one in which the US does not have the sole responsibility of solving the world's problems. As for his foreign policy in the Middle East, he showed clear favoritism for Iran, and he agreed to conclude a huge deal, the Iran nuclear deal, that has come to impact the region in an unprecedented manner. We can see the effects of that today if we look at the militias in Iraq, Syria, Yemen ... and others. Let us remember that these were mere convictions and political views that the president of the most powerful nation in the world has decided to turn into reality by drawing up policies that were capable of changing the face of history.
The same thing happened when Trump took office; he worked vehemently on reversing the policies of his predecessor, Barack Obama. He renewed the belief that America is the world's preeminent power. He entered into deep clashes with European powers, especially France, to the point that French President Emmanuel Macron, who has global leadership aspirations, called for the creation of a European army to put an end to the insults directed by the US President when he asked France to pay the NATO's late expenditures. Trump also tore up the Iran deal and imposed unprecedented sanctions on the Iranian regime. Trump’s administration firmly believes that the Mullahs' regime is the root of all evil and it threatens stability in the Middle East and the world.
It is highly unlikely for Trump’s tight grip on Iran to be weakened if he wins the election. He appears to be less concerned with domestic pressures, and more concerned with achieving yet another foreign victory ensuring that his name will go down in history. He got a taste of this victory after his administration's hard-won efforts in facilitating the historic peace agreements between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel.
Trump may continue to take daring steps in his dealings with Iran if he gets re-elected as president for the next four years. Trump is a firm believer in the fact that political Islamist groups are fascist groups that are motivated by extremist and deranged doctrines, and that they are the root of all evil in the region. If we take a closer look at the situation, we will notice that the most prominent leaders of such groups have clearly expressed their animosity toward Trump. There were even deliberate leaks from Trump’s team classifying these groups as terrorist organizations. The current administration may take a more hardline stance toward them in its second term.
On the other hand, it is not too difficult to identify Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s foreign policy views and political positions. It is clear that he is a firm believer in alliances to solve major problems. This indicates that he will work on restoring US-European relations and that he will confer with the Europeans on issues related to Iran, China and Turkey. Biden has taken a firm stance against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan because of his public clash with his European allies. If Biden, the reliable ally of the Democratic establishment, is elected President, he will surely adopt a different approach. He will appoint new faces to the White House, other than current US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Iran adviser Brian Hook and Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who have played a pivotal role in shaping the US administration's policies in the Middle East.
It is safe to say that nowadays, presidential debates are nothing more than a big display that is created solely for the public’s entertainment. They are set up like wrestling tournaments, stirring in viewers the primitive instincts of achieving sweeping victories and inflicting devastating defeats. Our main concern should be to unearth the candidates’ real intentions and convictions that will surely affect us in this part of the world.
*This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi Arabian outlet Asharq Al-Awsat.
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