The United States is currently navigating a complex set of foreign policy issues that the next president will undoubtedly have to address. In the wake of another summit concluding with no solution regarding a nuclearized Korean Peninsula and escalating speculation on intervention in Venezuela, the American people need to understand how a future president will handle unpredictable international situations.
While Democratic candidates like Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand have been crafting a vision of what their domestic policy would be if they win the election, overall there has been little more than the occasional comment on current foreign policy challenges. The debates around domestic initiatives like Medicare for all, the Green New Deal and income inequality are all extremely important, but candidates should also be able to illustrate their foreign policy principles in the same careful and nuanced way that they discuss domestic policies, like former President Barack Obama did.
As of right now, there has not been enough debate around foreign policy for me to even get an idea of where the candidates stand, so it’s hard to critique or support any one of them. I know it’s very early in the 2020 campaign, but even Elizabeth Warren’s foreign policy essay and speech, which aimed to lay out her foreign policy platform for 2020, mostly staked her claim that foreign policy is actually domestic policy, allowing Warren to continue to campaign in her comfort zone. She did little to elaborate on what U.S. foreign policy would be under President Warren.
As a politically engaged person, I want to know what a candidate believes about current challenges, seeing as they will likely have to take over the response, but most importantly, I want to understand why. I want a candidate to articulate the motivations behind their foreign policy. I am not going to be able to dream up every possible future scenario, nor am I an expert that knows the ins and outs of every region and its potential concerns. But I want a candidate to have fleshed out their priorities enough so that whatever arises, I understand the motivations behind their decision making and response. I want to be confident that the candidate I select will have the guiding principles required to make foreign policy decisions, even when faced with surprising challenges.
Candidate Tulsi Gabbard has pledged that “the issue of war and peace” will be central to her campaign. While I have many problems with Gabbard’s previous policy decisions — including support of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad — a campaign focused on foreign policy would definitely stand out amongst the current domestically focused candidates. On a broader scale, I hope that it will help bring essential foreign policy questions into the debate, so voters can get a better understanding of each candidate’s foreign policy stance.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Mar. 4, 2019, print edition. Email Nathan Maue at [email protected]