On Tuesday, November 8, Americans will go to the polls and elect the next president.
Both parties, Republican and Democrat, will make their cases to voters in the coming weeks.
Some of the most daunting tasks facing the next president come in the realm of foreign policy. America’s relationship to the rest of the world has changed drastically over the last decade.
The next president will have to negotiate with a rising China, a newly resurgent Russia, a defiant North Korea, and a drawn out civil war in Syria, among other issues.
We looked into where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump stand on some of the most pressing foreign-policy questions facing the US today. They have some stark differences.
The Iran Deal
The nuclear pact between the US and Iran offers Iran about $100 billion in relief from international sanctions in exchange for halting its nuclear program for the next 10 years.
The pact represents a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s foreign-policy legacy as he prepares to leave office. But it has been viciously attacked by conservative hardliners both in the US and Iran.
Hillary Clinton supports the Iran deal. As secretary of state, Clinton helped to impose sanctions on Iran that in part lead to the deal. Clinton holds that the Iran deal offered a diplomatic solution to an issue that could have become a war.
Clinton talked about the Iran deal in San Diego, California, earlier this year:
“When President Obama took office, Iran was racing toward a nuclear bomb. Some called for military action. But that could have ignited a broader war that could have mired our troops in another Middle Eastern conflict.
“President Obama chose a different path. And I got to work leading the effort to impose crippling global sanctions. We brought Iran to the table. We began talks. And eventually, we reached an agreement that should block every path for Iran to get a nuclear weapon.
“Now we must enforce that deal vigorously.”
Donald Trump has promised to rip up the Iran deal on day one of his presidency and said that it’s “one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen negotiated” in “[my] entire life.”
Trump discussed of the Iran deal in his speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio:
“Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, is now flush with $150 billion in cash released by the United States — plus another $400 million in ransom. Worst of all, the nuclear deal puts Iran, the number one state sponsor of radical Islamic terrorism, on a path to nuclear weapons
“In short, the Obama-Clinton foreign policy has unleashed ISIS, destabilized the Middle East, and put the nation of Iran — which chants ‘death to America’ — in a dominant position of regional power and, in fact, aspiring to be a dominant world power.”
Syria, Iraq, and ISIS
After the invasion of Iraq in 2003 that deposed Saddam Hussein, the US has maintained a constant presence in the country as it struggles to establish new, credible leadership.
Meanwhile, Syria descended into chaos after its president, Bashar Assad, violently suppressed pro-democracy demonstrators in 2011. In both nations, the Islamic State has risen as a powerful and brutal military force in direct opposition to the West. In 2014, the US intervened in the conflict by offering funding, training, and airstrikes to support moderate opposition to Assad’s regime.
In the same year, ISIS, an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq, filled the power vacuum in the desert along the borders of the two adjacent, troubled nations. By almost all measures, ISIS has lost ground militarily since its peak. But it has continued to carry out or inspire attacks overseas.
Hillary Clinton has expressed a three-point strategy to take out ISIS in Iraq and Syria in concert with our allies and the global community, paraphrased below:
1. Take out ISIS’ Syrian and Iraqi capitals of Raqqa and Mosul, respectively, with increased airstrikes and support for local Arab and Kurdish forces, while pursuing a diplomatic strategy aimed at Syria and Iraq’s leadership.
2. Disrupt ISIS’ supply lines of money, weapons, fighters, and their ability to distribute propaganda. This extends beyond Iraq and Syria into Afghanistan, Libya, and other ISIS strongholds. And it includes combating their cyber and social-media presence, as well as rebutting their interpretation of Islam.
3. Harden US domestic defences to a point where they deter attacks and discover plots before bad actors can execute.
Donald Trump has repeatedly referenced a plan to destroy ISIS. But he has refused to reveal the details, at different times saying he didn’t want his political opponents to parrot the idea and that he wants the US to be more unpredictable. Most recently, Trump said he would get counsel from top generals before deciding on a plan.
“They will have 30 days to submit to the Oval Office a plan for soundly and quickly defeating ISIS. We have no choice. Any nation who shares in this goal will be our friend in this mission,” Trump said.
Trump maintains that he knows more about ISIS “than the generals do,” and that US military’s generals have been “reduced to rubble” under Obama’s presidency.
There have been multiple lone-wolf-style attacks on US soil in in the last year. Mass shootings last year, according to one definition of the term, happened more than once daily on average.
In at least one case — the shooting in Orlando that left nearly 50 people dead — the shooters have expressed support for overseas terror groups.
Hillary Clinton says ISIS’ shrinking power and influence in Iraq and Syria has made the group desperate. Therefore, she says, it lashes out internationally and at the West. In the aftermath of the ISIS-led attack on the Brussels airport, Clinton offered the following three-point strategy to combat terrorism:
“First, we face an adversary that is constantly adapting and operating across multiple theatres, so our response must be just as nimble and far-reaching.
“Second, to defeat this transnational threat, we need to reinforce the alliances that have been core pillars of American power for decades.”
“And third, we need to rely on what actually works — not bluster that alienates our partners and doesn’t make us any safer.”
Donald Trump has proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the country from “terror states” “until we figure out what the hell is going on,” suggesting that Muslim immigrants to the US may be allied with ISIS or other anti-Western forces. He has since suggested a system of “extreme vetting” in immigration.
He has also repeatedly criticised Clinton and Obama for refusing to use the words “radical Islamic terror.”
NATO and Russia
Founded in 1949 by democratic nations in Europe and North America to defend against the spread of communism, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is the most powerful military alliance the world has ever known.
Though the Soviet Union has collapsed, Russia, under President Vladimir Putin’s rule, has risen again to become a world power and a military threat.
Putin runs Russia with near total autonomy and violated international law with the 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. Putin has been accused of having dissenters killed, war crimes, weaponizing the Syrian refugee crisis to fracture unity within the European Union, and multiple cyber attacks on the US.
Despite NATO’s size and strength, the migrant crisis, anxieties about terrorism, and strained economies present real weaknesses that experts say Putin has deftly exploited. Militarily, US generals concede that Russia poses real threats to the US.
Furthermore, Russia supports Syria’s Bashar Assad, while the US supports opposition forces. In Syria, Eastern Europe, and even the Pacific, Russia promotes causes contrary to the interests of the US and the democratic West.
Hillary Clinton presided over Obama’s “reset” in relations with Russia back in 2009 but has since come around to depicting Putin as a “bully.”
Speaking about Putin at a debate, Clinton said:
“Well, my relationship, it’s — it’s interesting. It’s one, I think, of respect. We’ve had some very tough dealings with one another. And I know that he’s someone that you have to continually stand up to because, like many bullies, he is somebody who will take as much as he possibly can unless you do.”
Since Trump began publicly praising Putin, Clinton’s campaign has portrayed him as potentially dangerous to US interests.
“It is beyond one’s imagination to have a candidate for president praising a Russian autocrat like Vladimir Putin,” she has said.
Donald Trump departs from orthodoxy in US politics in that he embraces the totalitarian leader Putin. Donald Trump has criticised the NATO alliance as “obsolete,” and welcomed praise from Putin.
When pressed to distance himself from Putin at NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum earlier in September, Trump suggested that Putin is a better leader than Obama.
“He is very much of a leader. The man has very strong control over his country … You can say, ‘oh, isn’t that a terrible thing,’ I mean, the man has very strong control over his country,” Trump said. “Now it’s a very different system, and I don’t happen to like the system, but certainly in that system he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.”
In the past, he has also called on Russian hackers to undermine the US election by releasing Clinton’s deleted emails from her time as secretary of state, though his campaign later said it was a joke.
Experts look at the hacking and leaking of information from the Democratic National Committee, for which they point the finger at Russia, as a sign that Putin welcomes a Trump presidency.
Israel is one of the US’s most reliable allies, and one of the biggest clients for foreign military sales.
Israel has been accused of wrongdoing in pushing out Palestinians from areas like the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Many Middle Eastern states, most prominently Iran, have come to resent the US for the alliance.
Peace between Israel and Palestinians remains one of the most elusive and sought-after solutions on the world stage.
Hillary Clinton helped broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas during her tenure as secretary of state, one of her more-touted achievements. She remains resolutely in support of Israel and hopeful about an eventual two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Clinton has questioned Trump’s dedication to the cause, especially him claiming he’d try to remain neutral in talks between Israel and Palestine.
“America can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security and survival,” Clinton told the American-Israeli Political Action Conference in March. “Anyone who doesn’t understand that has no business being our president.”
Donald Trump has questioned the US’s military alliances generally but claims to remain resolute in supporting Israel. As he fancies himself a world-class negotiator and deal maker, he’s expressed genuine interest in trying to establish himself as neutral between Palestine and Israel and eventually striking a deal for peace between them.
“I think it’s probably the toughest negotiation of all time,” said Trump in a March GOP debate. “But maybe we can get a deal done.”
Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, North Korea has been a stronghold of communism and totalitarianism under the Kim dynasty. Recently, Kim Jong Un has made startling progress in developing nuclear warheads and advanced, long-range missiles to launch them.
Perhaps no regime on earth is as openly antagonistic toward the US as North Korea. Only China has any modicum of influence over the Hermit Kingdom.
Hillary Clinton‘s strategy of containment via sanctions toward North Korea makes no large departures from Obama’s, though she has come out hard against the country’s recent nuclear testing, saying: “We will not allow North Korea to have a deliverable nuclear weapon” to US territory.
Clinton has also criticised Donald Trump for saying that he would host Kim Jong Un should he visit the US.
Donald Trump has repeatedly questioned the wisdom of the US’s alliance with South Korea, where more than 25,000 troops are stationed. He has also suggested that the US should pull away from Japan, musing about the country developing its own nuclear weapons to defend itself.
Trump hopes his proposed hardline trade stance toward China would convince the country to intervene in North Korea.
“China has … total control over North Korea,” Trump told “Fox & Friends” in January. “And China should solve that problem. And if they don’t solve the problem, we should make trade very difficult for China.”
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