Ask the Candidates – 1

Recently, President Obama had some strong  words for Donald Trump. Referring to his lack of governmental experience, especially in foreign policy, he said that being president “requires being able to work with leaders around the world in a way that reflects the importance of the office, and gives people confidence that you know the facts, and you know their names, and you know where they are on a map, and you know something about their history.” [1]


Given that it seems a lot of the candidates this time around are actually rather inexperienced in foreign affairs, it’s probably worth it to subject them to a little pop quiz on their knowledge of those matters. One would hope that at some point, now that all the preliminaries are out of the way and we’re into the serious part of campaign season, the media will eventually get around to asking these sorts of serious questions.

I’m focusing on the Middle East, since that’s where most of the “action” is at the moment. However, anyone wanting to be a leader should know that a crisis can arise anywhere at any time (Whatever happened to those schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram, anyway?).

Please note, there aren’t really any “right” or “wrong” answers – only “good” and “bad” ones. Since it’s unfair for an anonymous blogger to ask these questions without being willing to answer them himself, I’ll post my own answers in a week or so. Keep in mind I am no foreign policy expert; what I am aware of comes simply from reading newspapers (and their websites) and a sincere interest in what’s going on in the world at large.


Answer all questions as completely as possible.

1. What are the primary desires of the following nations or groups?

The Kurds
Saudi Arabia

2. Briefly describe the threat posed by each of these to our national security.

North Korea

3. Give one reason why you shouldn’t compare Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler.

4. At this time, is a one-state or two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem more likely? Why? What might the long-term consequences of that solution be?

5. Which of these statements best describes Islam?

A. A dangerous faith which (like Communism under Stalin) has world domination and conquest as its goal.
B. A backwards religion that oppresses women and insists on strict adherence to its doctrines under penalty of death.
C. A theocratic doctrine that wants the state to be run under strict religious lines.

Can you do better?

6. Islam is divided into the Shi’a and Sunni groups. What is the most significant difference between the two? How important is it in the politics of the Middle East?

7. What is the most important international issue that your successor will have to deal with?

8. The recent arms control agreement with Iran is very unpopular in some circles. What would be the primary result if the United States were to repudiate it?


What newspapers do you read?


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