These are the foreign policy questions debate moderators must ask

President Obama's birthplace. The Trump Foundation. The Clinton Foundation. Trump's taxes. Clinton's health. Police shootings.

You can predict the thrust of questions at the three presidential debates, starting Monday night. Throw in terrorism, economic growth and sexism.

But it is a much larger world and times are problematic. The Middle East is clearly a basket case. Vladimir Putin has never been as brazen. Ditto China in the South China Sea and elsewhere. North Korea's nuclear program. The European Union is under siege. And Pakistan, remember Pakistan?

Unavoidably, most of the questions will be about domestic matters. But there will be time over three debates to inquire about the complexity of that larger world.

So what would folks who really know their stuff ask if they were a moderator?

Ivo Daalder, president, Chicago Council on Global Affairs: "According to experts, North Korea is very likely to acquire the ability to deliver a nuclear weapon against the United States during the next president’s term. If you are elected, what would you do to prevent North Korea from acquiring this capability?"

"You have both ruled out sending American combat forces into Syria. What will you do to end the war in Syria, which has caused millions of refugees and provided the opportunity for terrorist groups like ISIS to flourish?"

Tom Friedman, columnist, The New York Times: "If we defeat ISIS, what do think would happen in the space it controls the morning after? Would we have to stay there? If not, why not? And if so, are you ready for that?"

(This question, Friedman says, "gets at the fact that everyone has a plan to defeat ISIS — but the fact is there will be a huge power struggle between Sunnis and between Sunnis and Shiites for who takes over their areas the morning after. That's why Obama is being so careful. As I said in 2003 (Colin Powell got it from me): You break it, you own it.)

"Mr. Trump, if you were against going into Iraq in 2003 why are you so eager to intervene to defeat ISIS today? Do you really think it can be done without boots on the ground? Same to you, Hillary."

Tom Hundley, senior editor at the Pulitzer Center, former foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune: "I know more about ISIS than the generals do.' Please explain in detail how you acquired this superior knowledge base and how it has informed your thinking on the Middle East."

Hooman Majd, contributor to NBC News and Vanity Fair: "First, under what circumstances do you believe the use of force by the US against a foreign country would be justified?"

"Second, how do you propose to eliminate, or at least mitigate, the threat of terror attacks against our country?"

Susan Milligan, senior writer, U.S. News & World Report, and former foreign correspondent: "I'd like to know how each one feels about the role of the US in mediating/interfering in/rescuing people in conflicts overseas. We're long past the point where we can swoop in with our superior military and quickly quell some invasion or human rights violation. And sometimes trying to help makes it worse."

"Given the high cost, financially and in terms of human lives lost, what is the standard? Gross human rights abuses? Violation of international borders? Our own national security at risk? Is being 'great' or a leader mean the US has to take the lead — or even get involved — in every crisis abroad?"

"On a more targeted note, I'd like to know their views on the power of trade and sanctions as carrot/sticks to influence countries with poor human rights records. Why punish Cuba (even with the thawing of relations, still not open) while giving China MFN (most Favored Nations) status? And are sanctions valuable (Cuba, Iran) if the rest of the world isn't joining in?"

Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, former Beijing bureau chief for magazine and the Chicago Tribune: "In the spirit of Gary Johnson's encounter with 'Aleppo,' ask Trump: 'What would you do about the Rohingya?' No additional info required."

Liz Sly, Beirut bureau chief, The Washington Post: "U.S. Syria policy has obviously failed. What would you do to end this enormous tragedy, stop the bloodshed and stem the flow of refugees?"

"As the Islamic State is defeated, what would you do to stabilize the Middle East to ensure that the cycle of conflict, instability and extremism doesn’t simply repeat itself again, as it did when we left Iraq?"

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.


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