Commentary

Presidential Candidates: No Prior Foreign Policy Experience Preferred


        
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The recent Democratic and Republican presidential debates have proven that anti-establishment candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, both of whom have little foreign policy experience, have better judgment on such issues than the supposed expert—former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The problem is that her views and her experience are infused with the American Imperium; this view is out of date and is genuinely dangerous for the security of the republic and its citizens.

The United States currently has a national debt just south of $19 trillion. That total is inconceivably large to the average taxpayer. Foreign military interventions do not represent all or even most of that sum, but the long failed quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan accounted for $4 to $6 trillion in wasted cash—and that’s no small contribution to the sorry financial state of the hollow American Empire.

Of course, that doesn’t include the $600 billion annually spent to fund the U.S. Department of Defense. This total is what the next seven or eight countries combined spend on security. In addition, it funds an informal worldwide U.S. empire of usually wealthy alliance partners that the United States has pledged to protect, profligate military and covert interventions into other nations business, and a global network of hundreds of American military bases to facilitate such objectives.

In addition, the Department of Defense is the worst-run department of an already bloated and grossly inefficient federal government—being the only department or agency in the government unable to pass an audit and therefore unable to account for trillions of dollars of expenditures.

Thus, with this dire financial state of affairs, the United States can no longer afford to be the world’s policeman; conventional politicians, such as Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio, insist that they don’t want the United States to fulfill this role, but then they back repeated and usually counterproductive military meddling in the affairs of other countries.

In contrast, Donald Trump may have despicably bashed Muslims, Hispanics, and foreigners (such as the Chinese), but at least he is not as big of an irresponsible hawk as other more “mainstream” candidates. That’s because the “mainstream” foreign policy of both parties is “American exceptionalism” at gunpoint.

For example, Trump opposed George W. Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq and is clever enough to welcome Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war bog. Trump is also one of the few Republicans not to waste his and the public’s time criticizing Hillary over the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya—instead properly focusing his criticism of her on the wider issue of her bad judgment in pushing for using the U.S. military to overthrow Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi (which created the lawless environment that allowed the Benghazi attack). Libya, like Iraq, without a strongman to hold it together, is now in chaos with terrorists in charge of part of the country.

As Bernie Sanders astutely points out, foreign policy experience counts for little if judgment is absent. Hillary pushed for the U.S. intervention in Libya, even after she supported the ousting of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and then recanted during the 2008 campaign—even though the same thing was likely to happen in Libya. Although Sanders has not been perfect in foreign policy either, he was against the Iraq War and also correctly opposed Bill Clinton’s bombing of Kosovo and Serbia in 1999.

Finally, Trump and Sanders both wisely agree that instead of squaring off against Kim Jong-un, the bizarre autocrat in North Korea who likely has nuclear weapons, the United States should instead pressure China—which has much more leverage over Kim than does the United States—to rein in the dictator. These inexperienced foreign policy hands seem to intuitively recognize that it’s much less expensive in American blood and money for the United States to abandon its role of “Big Man on Campus” and let local powers deal with some of the problems that affect their regions. Thus, the United States can renew itself as a global power, reduce its debt, and thus spur more rapid economic growth that will stockpile latent U.S. power for the future. Otherwise, the United States will probably travel the same downward path toward financial ruin as empires of yore—such as the British, French, and Soviet Empires.


Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office.


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