Presidential Debates on Foreign Policy

May 15, 2020 in Politics Essays

Presidential Debates Essay

The current U.S. presidential elections have evoked high public expectations. The recent debates have highlighted the possible changes in the foreign policy of the USA, although, the party nominees hold different positions regarding numerous issues. While the Democratic candidate, Hilary Clinton, advocates the Wilsonian approach to the active engagement in world affairs, her opponent from the Conservative party, Ronald Trump, calls for the partial, if not complete, withdrawal from the regional conflicts in accordance with the Jeffersonian approach to foreign policy.

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During the debates, the presidential candidates have covered at least five foreign policy issues, including immigration, money spending on foreign aid, cyber attacks, nuclear weapons, and involvement in regional conflicts. The nominee from the Conservative Party, Ronald Trump, strongly argues against the US self-proclaimed status of the world policeman (Blake, 2016a). In contrast, the Democratic candidate, Hilary Clinton stresses the importance of international cooperation, including the strengthening of the American ties with the NATO partners (Blake, 2016a). In addition, the rivals have different positions on the immigration issue and the U.S. involvement in the Middle East hotspots. In fact, Clinton fiercely advocates the naturalization of the undocumented American inhabitants and the deeper participation in resolving the Syrian and ISIS crisis (Blake, 2016b). However, Trump highlights the potential dangers of granting citizenship to all the immigrants and hesitation in taking swift action against the radical Islamists and Syrian insurgents (Blake, 2016b).

Meanwhile, both parties agree that cyber security is one of the urgent concerns for the United States (Blake, 2016a). At the same time, they express their concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons (Blake, 2016a). Certainly, the debate deals with a wide range of problems.

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Actually, there are a great number of differences between the political agendas of two presidential candidates. Ultimately, Clinton strongly supports the export of American values beyond the U.S. borders by the means of multilateral agreements. Moreover, the Democratic candidate plans to rely on the military capability of NATO, as the strongest military union in history (Blake, 2016a). At the same time, Clinton suggests initiating a beneficial dialogue with the Muslim communities in the Middle East (Blake, 2016a). In fact, such efforts should help to facilitate the positive image of the USA and ensure worldwide participation in combating terrorism. However, Trump clearly opposes the economic costs of U.S. involvement in world affairs. According to Trump, the NATO partners failed to contribute their share of financial inputs in order to support the military initiatives of the Atlantic Alliance (Blake, 2016a). Moreover, Trump gravely condemns the unnecessary spending of 6 trillion dollars on the Middle East operations, as the money should be used for reviving the national economy (Blake, 2016a). Therefore, the Conservative candidate advocates the idea of limited participation in the regional conflicts, while the national self-serving interests should dominate the political agenda of the state.

The same assertions explain the difference in the opinions of the nominees on the immigration policy and solving the Middle East crisis. In fact, Trump highlights the dangers of allowing the free flow of immigrants. According to Trump, “heroin, that pours across our southern border,” threatens the health of the U.S. population (Blake, 2016b). The nominee essentially recommends applying the more restrictive custom regime, since uncontrolled immigration can significantly increase the levels of drug trafficking. In contrast, Clinton stresses the importance of “bringing undocumented immigrants out from the shadows, putting them into the formal economy” in order to avoid numerous instances of labor abuse, while securing the national borders (Blake, 2016b). In addition, Clinton strives to reinforce the supremacy of democratic laws by eliminating social inequality and increasing security measures against external threats.

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Meanwhile, the Democratic candidate presents the plan of eliminating ISIS in Syria. Clinton proposes the disruption of international channels of weapon supply for the terrorist organization and the establishment of no-fly zones and safe havens within the Syrian borders (Blake, 2016b). According to Clinton, such measures will protect the citizens of the country and reduce the flow of Syrian refugees (Blake, 2016b). Alternatively, Trump casts considerable doubts about the proposal of the Democrats. According to Trump, the elimination of terrorist groups will inevitably create the vacuum of power in the region and facilitate the emergence of new threats, as such a situation happened in the al Qaeda, when the elimination of the terrorist group led to the rise of the ISIS (Blake, 2016b). Therefore, the USA faces the adverse possibility of engaging in the never-ending and costly cycle of conflicts again. The debate suggests that the party nominees have the opposite views on a number of crucial foreign policy issues.

Despite the disagreements, both opponents seem to agree on the importance of such problems, as the cybersecurity and the proliferation of the weapon of mass destruction. According to Clinton, the U.S. authorities should fully realize the threat of hacking the political and commercial institutions of the United States by the independent groups and other states (Blake, 2016a). Trump, in his turn, seems to agree with the assertion by admitting the gravity of the current challenge (Blake, 2016a). Thus, both candidates suggest starting the consolidation of the national resources in order to respond to one of the biggest security issues of the 21st century (Blake, 2016a). Similarly, Clinton and Trump admit the necessity of addressing the problem of nuclear disarmament, although, they have different opinions on the appropriate methods for solving the issue. For instance, Clinton praises the diplomatic solution that can be achieved during the negotiations with Iran; the previous negotiations ended with the signing of the so-called Iranian deal that allowed the presence of the international supervisors at the Iranian nuclear facilities (Blake, 2016a). On the contrary, the Conservative candidate argues that the Iranian deal is a failure since it cost the USA 1,7 billion dollars, and the nominee seems to prefer the practice of enforcing the harsh economic sanctions (Blake, 2016a).  Evidently, the political platforms of both candidates equally relate to some crucial issues, while advocating various methods.

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Meanwhile, the candidates belong to different schools of thought of the U.S. foreign policy and political ideologies. In fact, Clinton is a fierce adherent of the liberal ideology, since she advocates the expansion of democratic values abroad, including the humanitarian interventions in Syria and the multilateral efforts in combating terrorism, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and strengthening cyber security. Moreover, the former U. S. Secretary seems to adhere to the Wilsonian approach to the foreign policy that focuses on the maintenance of the democratic system, supremacy of the laws, and improvement of the living standards by addressing the regional issues (“Overview of American Foreign Policy,” n. d.). Therefore,  Clinton has the following goals: to deepen the partnership with the NATO members, to stimulate international cooperation on such issues, as terrorism and nuclear threat (Blake, 2016a; Blake, 2016b). Alternatively, Trump is a representative of the realistic ideology, since he strongly opposes engagement in world affairs. Actually, the Conservative candidate favors the Jeffersonian approach to foreign policy that concentrates on the limited participation in the military conflicts and enforcement of the economic sanctions, as the primary diplomatic tool of projecting one’s influence (“Overview of American Foreign Policy,” n. d.). Such a proposal from Trump constitutes the concrete example of the Jeffersonian approach to foreign affairs, as it communicates the refusal to carry the financial burden of securing NATO’s budget, sponsoring the military operations in the Middle East (Blake, 2016a). Trump clearly considers the economic sanctions against Iran as the least costly method of diplomatic pressure (Blake, 2016b). The evidence strongly suggests that the presidential candidates express completely different positions regarding numerous foreign policy issues.

In fact, the expectation of tangible changes in the U.S. performance will highly increase, if Trump wins the elections. Firstly, the USA is likely to abandon the long-standing partnership with NATO by refusing to cover 73 percent of its budget (Blake, 2016a). In this case, the North Atlantic Alliance will turn into the obsolete remnant of the Cold War. Secondly, the U.S. government is likely to disengage from world affairs. Particularly, the USA may withdraw from the regulation of the Syrian crisis, since it is perceived, as an additional burden for the American economy (Blake, 2016a). Moreover, the state officials may shift their focus from the humanitarian objectives to the gradual disentanglement from the US self-imposed responsibilities of the world sheriff, since the struggle with terrorist organizations in the Middle East resembles the never-ending circle of conflicts (Blake, 2016a). Trump’s assertion of the current situation in the Middle East appears to be more precise. Although the successful dismantlement of al Qaeda is a significant victory, it created a vacuum of power in the region (Blake, 2016b). In addition, it created a robust environment for the development of other radical groups, including ISIS. Therefore, the further engagement of the United States in the struggle against the ISIS terrorists in Syria will only prolong the established pattern. In such a case, the gradual conveyance of the responsibility of combating terrorism to the Syrian authorities may be an appropriate alternative.      

In conclusion, the debates help to identify the general principles of the Conservative and Democratic political platforms. Hilary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, clearly prefers the Wilsonian approach to supporting democratic values and improving human conditions by the means of multilateral actions. Alternatively, Ronald Trump adheres to the Jeffersonian school of thought that focuses on limited participation in international organizations and regional conflicts. Thus, the evident differences in addressing the foreign policy issues help to predict the U.S. future course of actions.

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