Israel and Mali: 2 Debate Preoccupations

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1) Romney didn't come to fight, but to agree. "I agree," was a surprising meme. I imagine some voters might like that, though most journalists clearly didn't. Obama was almost too cutting. Quite a departure from the first debate.

2) Israel is a big winner. It was mentioned more often than I even thought it would be mentioned.

3) Mali! Who woulda thunk? But it's a serious problem -- an al Qaeda-inspired group basically controls half the country. Reversing this is extraordinarily important.

4) Romney understands that Americans are tired of the Middle East. He didn't push intervention as hard as he could have, and he limited himself in offering alternative policy prescriptions for Syria.

5) I thought Romney backtracked on Afghanistan pretty decisively.

6) Mentioning Yad Vashem is tacky. But, whatever. The reason Israeli politicians bring visitors to Yad Vashem is so they will mention it. And from what I know, Yad Vashem was an education for the President.

7) Obama didn't go on an "apology tour." On the other hand, I tend to think that placing daylight between Israel and the U.S. doesn't help the peace process. Obama came in to office with a different theory than George Bush's theory. His theory hasn't worked out (not that Bush's theory worked either, which could lead you to conclude that perhaps peace is not in the offing).

8) If I lived in southeastern Virginia, I wouldn't be happy with Obama. More ships, please.

9) People are picking on Romney for highlighting Russia's role in the world, but that role is mainly nefarious, so I don't see much of a problem with that.

10) In the competition to decide which country is a greater threat to world peace, Pakistan or Iran, I would have to vote for Pakistan for the moment. One has nukes, one, so far at least, doesn't.

11) Obama once again speaks very clearly on Iran. Iran will not get nukes. He's made this his policy. People haven't adequately considered the possibility that one reason he wants to take Iraq and Afghanistan off the table is because he's squaring up to confront Iran, and doesn't want to do it when the country is exhausted by over-extension.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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