The crucial Florida Republican primary approaches. As the field slowly narrows down to obvious key contenders it is becoming increasingly evident that each man would be a disastrous candidate from a foreign policy perspective. They are all hampered not only by their very real lack of experience and credentials, but also because they are 21st century Republicans. The question however must now be asked: Will a Republican president be a disastruous outcome for U.S. foreign policy?
I firmly believe that it would be an unconscionable error.
This century has so far seen both the rise of armed action by the U.S. against foreign states and entities, sometimes unlawful, and the sharp decline of the U.S. as a globally respected power. Gone are the days where America stood for democracy, integrity and prosperity, the U.S. is now synonymous for many across the world with support for vile regimes and employing military action at whim to settle political scores. This may be contemporarily incorrect, but it is evident that the eight years of Republican administration preceding President Barack Obama’s term have left a deep foreign policy rift, one that will prove impossible to heal should a Republican be elected.
This may strike some as an unfair stigmatization of the Republican Party as one of conflict and strife. After all, Reagan presided over the end of the Cold War. Eisenhower ended the Korean War, and Gerald Ford brought the War in Vietnam to a conclusion. However, in today’s world the Republican candidates show less foreign policy nous and more populist partisan chutzpah combined with a fundamental misunderstanding of foreign policy nuance.
Mitt Romney has repeatedly gone from foreign policy issue to foreign policy issue, seeking the side that will get the most electoral credit; he also added that Israel would be his first state visit as president. Newt Gingrich has an intensely unpleasant attitude to any foreign policy, veering to the right of the party on any given occasion for votes, even stooping to deny the existence of a Palestinian people. Rick Santorum believes that the U.S. has effectively taken up the mantle of Franco-British colonial empires and needs to use this to enforce its values upon the world. Interestingly, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is the only candidate that makes some sort of foreign policy sense with regards to the Middle East and U.S. military interference in the region, however even then he is very much off key on many issues. Besides, he is wholly unelectable.
These statements are all symptomatic with a skewed notion of international relations. The modern path of U.S. foreign policy should be about building international consensus and dealing with issues in a co-operative fashion, all whilst projecting discreet power. It is evident none of the Republican candidates have grasped this. For them, the foreign policy issue is one aligned to their own political-religious identities, deeply personal and not tied necessarily to the best interests of the United States. Their various foreign policy stances have veered from ill informed, to naïve and to outright mad. Gingrich’s assertion that the U.S. should overtly start assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists was by far the most alarming.
Therefore, from a foreign policy perspective, the voters of the U.S. will soon face a choice between a seasoned incumbent or a total unknown Republican candidate, who will be carrying the weight of a reactionary party and some fairly whacky ideas. Should the latter be chosen, then U.S. foreign policy may return to its schizophrenic and violent past, never recovering and leading to a spiral of decline. In that case may Gold help the United States of America.
This all begs the question: Can we really afford to entrust U.S. foreign policy to a Republican president?
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