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October 23, 2012 at 8:58 AM

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Mitt Romney: the 1980s called, they want their foreign policy back. And about those bayonets ...

The final presidential debate delivered on snappy zingers and hilarious one-liners. Behind each one lies nuanced foreign policy matters that deserve more attention than either candidate gave them.

Let's take Mitt Romney's assertion that Russia is America's number one geopolitical foe. No it is not. Not even close. Begin that list with Iran, North Korea, Syria and the rise in armed militants in Somalia and other parts of Africa. Afghanistan rises, rather than falls, in priority as we prepare to exit that country because we don't want to have to delay our departure or go back. And the intemperate relationship between Israel and its geographical neighbors is always simmering just below boil.

Gov. Romney said during last night's debate his Russia comment has been reported without important context. I went back and listened to Romney's interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. After Blitzer expressed incredulity that anyone today - let alone someone with access to national security briefings - would name Russia as our biggest foe, Romney went on to add other players, explaining that Russia always sides with them. What if Blitzer had been half asleep and had only nodded, rather than prodded the GOP presidential nominee to give his answer more thought?

It was an odd historical moment last night, thinking about bayonets in the context of our military. When I think of bayonets, I think of American soldiers slogging through Europe in World Wars I and II. Bayonets were discontinued by the Army a couple of years ago. The Marines still use them. But modern wars are more likely to be dominated by air attacks and roadside bombs, than hand-to-hand combat where bayonets might be useful.
Romney is making a point, albeit poorly. He believes the U.S. Navy needs more ships and some agree. That will play well in key battleground states such as Virginia which has one of the largest naval shipyards in the world.

But to President Obama's point: America's highly-sophisticated military does not need to count ships when it can rely on the best intelligence and equipment technology has to offer. What were your takeaways from last night?


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