US Presidential Candidates: Not Much to Choose From on Foreign Policy
NEW DELHI: Earlier this week, Hillary Clinton announced that she will be running for presidency for a second time. The announcement ended two years of speculation and denials, and put Clinton in the fray with Republican Senator Ted Cruz, Republican Governor Scott Walker, Republican Senator Rand Paul, and Republican Senator Marco Rubio, amongst others.
In addition to explaining why they are worthy of being tasked with the mighty United States’ internal decisions, the Presidential-aspirants will have to make clear their positions on the country’s wars, drones, nuclear deals, trade agreements, and so on.
Here is a brief look at the less-than-impressive foreign policy positions of each candidate, especially relating to the current foreign policy obsession of the US: The Islamic State.
1. Hillary Clinton
In the 2008 Democratic primary, the single most important factor was the Iraq War. The primary went in favour of Barack Obama largely because of his opposition to the war, whilst Clinton’s attempts to disassociate herself the affirmative vote she cast for the Iraq War Resolution of 2002, were not entirely successful.
The resolution gave the Bush administration carte blanche in determining when and how to remove the regime in Baghdad. Hillary has since said that she was “wrong,” but her decision to vote in favour of the resolution has dogged her since.
The 2002 resolution is all the more important as it is being used (along with a 2001 authorisation to fight Al Qaeda) by the Obama administration -- that came to power based on its opposition to it -- to bomb Syria and Iraq. Congress is yet to deliberate on a new resolution for current US involvement in West Asia.
2. Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz has said a lot of inane things, especially when attempting to deny climate change. Although those statements may be sufficient to put his credibility as the next US President into question, we are more concerned with Cruz’ foreign policy position.
For one, Cruz wants to bomb the Islamic State “back to the Stone Age.” “They want to go back and reject modernity," Cruz said in Dallas at a summit for Americans for Prosperity. "Well, I think we should help them. We ought to bomb them back to the Stone Age."
Cruz further outlined his strategy on the Islamic State in an opinion piece for CNN titled “How U.S. can stop ISIS.” “First and foremost, Washington should resolve to make border security a top priority finally, rather than an afterthought, of this plan in light of concerns about potential ISIS activities on our southern border, cited in a Texas Department of Public Safety bulletin reported by Fox News. As long as our border isn't secure, the government is making it far too easy for terrorists to infiltrate our nation.”
Yes, ISIS is threatening the US via Mexico. No further comment.
3. Scott Walker
Check out this exchange between interviewer Martha Raddatz and Governor Walker:
“RADDATZ: Let’s talk about some specific, and you talk about leadership and you talk about big, bold, fresh ideas. What is your big, bold, fresh idea in Syria?
WALKER: Well, I think – I go back to the red line.
RADDATZ: Let’s not go back. Let’s go forward. What is your big, bold idea in Syria?
WALKER: I think aggressively, we need to take the fight to ISIS and any other radical Islamic terrorist in and around the world, because it’s not a matter of when they attempt an attack on American soil, or not if I should say, it’s when, and we need leadership that says clearly, not only amongst the United States but amongst our allies, that we’re willing to take appropriate action. I think it should be surgical.
RADDATZ: You don’t think 2,000 air strikes is taking it to ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
WALKER: I think we need to have an aggressive strategy anywhere around the world. I think it’s a mistake to –
RADDATZ: But what does that mean? I don’t know what aggressive strategy means. If we’re bombing and we’ve done 2,000 air strikes, what does an aggressive strategy mean in foreign policy?
WALKER: I think anywhere and everywhere, we have to be – go beyond just aggressive air strikes. We have to look at other surgical methods. And ultimately, we have to be prepared to put boots on the ground if that’s what it takes, because I think, you know–
RADDATZ: Boots on the ground in Syria? U.S. boots on the ground in Syria?
WALKER: I don’t think that is an immediate plan, but I think anywhere in the world.
RADDATZ: But you would not rule that out.
WALKER: I wouldn’t rule anything out. I think when you have the lives of Americans at stake and our freedom loving allies anywhere in the world, we have to be prepared to do things that don’t allow those measures, those attacks, those abuses to come to our shores.”
What an impressively big, bold and fresh idea.
4. Rand Paul
According to Paul, it’s all one big conspiracy to attack Christianity. Speaking at the Values Voter Summit in 2013, Paul said:
“Today I want to tell you about a war the mainstream media is ignoring. From Boston to Zanzibar, there is a worldwide war on Christianity. You won't hear much about it on the evening news because the answer is not convenient and does not fit the narrative we have been told about radical Islam. The President tries to gloss over who is attacking and killing Christians. The media describes the killings as 'sectarian.' But the truth is, there is a worldwide war on Christians by a fanatical element of Islam."
Yes because all terrorists are one, big, homogenous, allied force that are not killing any religious group other than Christians.
Oh, and Paul also said -- during a gun rights event in New Hampshire in January 2015 -- that he doesn’t “like” the UN and will be happy to “dissolve it” because "I dislike paying for something that two-bit Third World countries with no freedom attack us and complain about the United States.”
5. Marco Rubio
Rubio has a novel theory for why the US has not as yet wiped out the Islamic State. Speaking to Sean Hannity, Rubio said: “If we wanted to defeat them militarily, we could do it. [Obama] doesn’t want to upset Iran… “In [Obama’s] mind, this deal with Iran is going to be the Obamacare of the second term, and he doesn’t want them sending military to the region because they think the region belongs to them.”
Iran is actually a Shia-majority country that does not want Iraq or Syria overrun by Sunni extremists like the Islamic State. Iran would be quite happy to have the Islamic State defeated -- unless Rubio is privy to some larger Iranian conspiracy that no one else is aware of.