September 7, 2012

Have Americans Turned Inward?

By Bruce Stokes, Director of Pew Global Economic Attitudes, Pew Research Center

Special to CNN

Foreign policy is the forgotten stepchild of the 2012 U.S. presidential election. At a time when the United States is engaged in the longest war in its history in Afghanistan, when in the eyes of foreigners U.S. stature as the hegemonic power is in question, and when a euro crisis could derail the American economy’s tenuous recovery from the Great Recession, voters choosing their next president are turning inward, preoccupied with domestic affairs to an extent unprecedented in recent times. Nevertheless, when the national security of the United States is seen as threatened by Iran or terrorism, voters remain aggressively internationalist.

Mitt Romney, in his speech accepting the Republican presidential candidacy, failed to mention the ongoing war in Afghanistan, the civil war in Syria or the legacy of Iraq. NATO, the principle U.S. security alliance, was ignored. There was scant reference to China. And the single mention of Russia was intended to show that Romney would be tougher than president Barack Obama in dealing with Moscow.

Obama devoted more time to foreign policy in his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, reminding voters that he ended the war in Iraq, has set a withdrawal date for Afghanistan, has been tough with China and would not restart the Cold War with Russia. But he too made no mention of Syria or NATO.

Read the full commentary at CNN’s Global Public Square blog