In the American presidential election this year, Republican candidate Donald Trump draws extensive attention with his inflammatory and offensive utterance. The world is imperiled with vehement backlashes to globalization by angry mobs, and furthermore, his isolationism. Foreign leaders and media are scared of a Trump presidency so much that it seems that they are wholeheartedly happy with Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton. There is no doubt that Clinton is far better than incoherent and ignorant Trump. However, we do not want the third term of Barack Obama. We need the candidate to overturn his abstention from American leadership in the world. Obama was obsessed with ending Bush’s war in Iraq and Afghanistan, without helping them rebuild their security forces. As a result, Iraq has become the home of terrorism, and it prevails around the world from there (“Iraq: The World Capital of Terrorism”; Atlantic; July 5, 2016). Also, people have become fatigued with long wars in the Middle East, which leads America less willing to promote democracy, and consequently, adversaries are emboldened (“Democracy in Decline”; Foreign Affairs; July/August 2016). Trump’s America First would make Obama’s failure worse furthermore. Therefore, we must watch Hillary Clinton carefully whether she would reverse Obama’s apologetic and appeasing foreign policy.
Clinton’s foreign policy advisors and campaign funds reflect her liberal hawk visions. From the early stage, neoconservative leaders like Robert Kagan expressed to endorse Clinton (“Trump is the GOP’s Frankenstein monster. Now he’s strong enough to destroy the party.”; Washington Post; February 25. 2016), and he has launched a fundraising campaign for her this June (“Report: Prominent neoconservative to fundraise for Clinton”; Hill; June 23, 2016). Also, Clinton draws by far the most donations from the defense industry during the primary (“The Defense Industry’s Surprising 2016 Favorites: Bernie & Hillary”; Politico; April 1, 2016). Since Republican internationalists such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have gone out of the race, Clinton is the last hope for American allies that face critical threats in their neighborhood.
Actually, Clinton is more Republican than Trump in some points. According to a survey by Fortune magazine, 58% of big business executives prefer Clinton, because Trump’s economic policy is still unclear and fear his isolationism ruins their global operations (“Survey: More than half of corporate CEOs prefer Clinton over Trump”; Hill; June 1, 2016). Moreover, eminent Republicans from former senior officials to policy experts express their support for Clinton. They are not just neoconservative pundits like Robert Kagan and Max Boot, but also ex both Bush administration officials, including former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, and former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson (“Here’s the growing list of big-name Republicans supporting Hillary Clinton”; Washington Post; June 30, 2016). From these points, we can expect Clinton to be the candidate of strong and responsible America.
On the other hand, Clinton’s electoral base can move her leftward. Clinton needs Obama’s backing to boost the support by minorities like blacks and Hispanics. Quite strangely, Obama’s approval rate is rising towards the end of his term (“Don’t look now, but Barack Obama is suddenly popular”; Washington Post; May 21, 2016), and that helps Clinton in the election. In addition, she needs to win support from white working class who back Bernie Sanders. This is the key to Clinton’s choice of her running mate. It does not matter so much, if she aligns with Obama or makes some compromise with Sanders liberals in domestic policy, in order to win this election. The real problem is their influence on her foreign policy. That is likely to drive her administration into Obama III.
From the above points of view, let me mention Clinton’s foreign policy speech on June 2 in San Diego. See the video below.
Her speech was almost a template of US foreign policy to deny Trump’s America First visions and irresponsible remark about nuclear nonproliferation. Also, Clinton stressed American exceptionalism for the leadership role in the world. What she said in the speech resonates the Senate testimony by former Secretary of State James Baker on May 12 at the Foreign Relations Committee, regarding US global leadership (“Rubio enlists James Baker to knock Trump”; Politico; May 12, 2016). See the video below.
On the other hand, Clinton stated that she would succeed Obama’s foreign policy approach, typically the Iran nuclear deal. However, this deal was criticized by even Democrats, notably Senator Chuck Schumer, as Iran gets a huge amount of frozen assets overseas to sponsor terrorists through sanction lift. Also, regional tension will grow as Saudi Arabia fears the rising threat of Iran, and distrusts America for a lukewarm compromise with the Shiite theocracy (“One Year On: Iran and the World”; Foreign Policy Association Blog; July 5, 2016). Above all, it is quite difficult to judge whether Clinton’s foreign policy is Wilsonian idealist or realist from this speech. Just as Professor Daniel Drezner of Tufts University comments, everything Clinton said in the speech is right to denounce Trump, but it is quite difficult to categorize her position into right or left, and hawk or dove (“Why Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy speech is almost impossible to analyze”; Washington Post; June 3, 2016). I would say, she is cautious so as not to provoke both Republican exoduses and Sanders liberals.
For further understanding of Clinton’s foreign policy, we need to review the draft of the Democrat Party’s platform on July 1. Wall Street businessmen worry that the party platform is strongly influenced by Sanders, particularly in regulation and taxes to sustain minimum wages. Regarding foreign policy, big businesses are critically concerned with the draft, which says there are “a diversity of views” among Democrats about the TPP. They understand that such an ambiguity suggests that Clinton is not enthusiastic about free trade (“Wall Street Takes a Hit in Democratic Party’s Platform Draft”; Bloomberg News; July 3, 2016). But Trump denounces the TPP more harshly.
Therefore, I would like to talk about some critical issues to see whether Clinton is more proactive in global leadership than Obama or not. The first one is American values in foreign policy. Despite the “smart power” slogan, democracy aid has declined during the Obama era. In the “Protect Our Values” section, the draft mentions various human rights agendas like gender and minority issues, but hardly states about democracy promotion. Middle East terrorism is one of the key matters in the “Confronting Global Threats” section. The draft mentions extensively on the current war in Syria, but not so much on Iraq, though global terrorism is prevailing from there due to Obama’s premature withdrawal. Also, we must not dismiss Iranian proxy influence in both countries, but the draft states Obama’s nuclear deal proudly, while sparing only a few lines to mention growing Iranian threats to Saudi Arabia and Israel in particular. Quite strangely, the draft does not mention China in the “Confronting Global Threats” section, though it was Clinton who led the pivot to Asia, as the Secretary of State.
Above all, Clinton denies Trump’s foreign policy “suggestions” very lucidly and compellingly, both in her San Diego speech and the draft of the Democratic Party platform. Clearly, Clinton’s global policy views are mature and orthodox. Trump’s mishmash ideas are utterly in no comparison. Therefore, I am definitely for Hillary Clinton in this election. Still, we have to be watchful. For fear of flamboyant Donald Trump, people assume that everything is all right if Clinton beats him. But I would call more attention to her. The vital point is the balance of power in the Clinton camp. If the influences of Bernie Sanders and other liberals do not go beyond domestic inequality, things are not so serious. Hopefully, Democrat right wings, neoconservatives, the defense industry, and Republican exoduses have larger voices in foreign policy and national security. Then, America will be much stronger on the global stage.