Domestic politics have never interested me. Frankly, I would much rather leave major decisions to a tied and silent Congress, leaving us, the citizenry, alone to pursue our own happiness. But, I am a woman, and as such, it is the affairs of others (nations that is) and their relationship to us that keeps me up at night.
As the United States prepares for another carpet-bombing of messages “approved by X,” her citizens look for a strong candidate to fix the shambles of our economy—and rightfully so! With the unemployment rate at 9.1% (as of June 21), the reformed health care debacle, the housing market still in limbo, the weakened and continually weakened dollar—it is the calm person who is the fool. While these issues will sway my hand at next year’s ballots, it will not be the defining feature. All Republican candidates have a better economic policy than President Obama—though with the bar set so low, it would be difficult to create something worse. Rather, what will sway me are their foreign policies.
A cohesive foreign policy is just as important, if not more so, than a domestic policy. Let us not forget the tragedy of hubris that was the 1990s—the Cold War had been won; Eastern Europe liberated; the Evil Empire dissolved. Al-Qaeda was in its toddler stage; Afghanistan an unknown place for most Americans.
In celebration, President Bill Clinton heavily reduced (read: decimated) the budgets for the military and intelligence departments. He turned his attention home. When incidents like the bombing of the USS Cole in 1997 happened, he acted neither with principle, precision nor propinquity. This policy relaxation and quietness can be (and is widely) considered a stepping stone on the road to September 11. However, it is with much chagrin that the benefit of the doubt must be given to President Clinton. Even with a bolstered intelligence community, it seems wrong to assume that he could have predicted and/or circumvented the shock and terror that was September 11.
With that said, President Obama’s policies have no excuse to be as meager as they are. He came into office in wartime: two major conflicts and a broader policy of fighting jihadism. Instead of putting his full attention to these efforts, like his predecessor, President Obama turned his attention home. He bowed to foreign leaders.
President Obama was so eager to usher the United States through another gilded 1990s that he forgot what made the 1990s as they were—the absence of major international conflict.
In the wake of international calamities: the destabilization of the Middle East, growing violent discontent from the European Union; in response to failed attacks within the nation: the Ft. Hood massacre, the “Underwear” Bomber—the President has done nothing but falter and stumble. What action has been done is minimal, belated and schizophrenic. Today, there is a quiet from Washington about these issues that is embarrassing as it is unsettling. Although there were major logistical faults made in Iraq and Afghanistan, at least President Bush had a concrete foreign policy and acted upon it.
The broad-stroked, whisper-like foreign policy I hear from the 2012 Republican candidates, if I hear anything at all, is troubling. I fear that in trying to defeat President Obama on his follies, they have forgotten the shifted paradigm. This country will never have the luxury of hubris that the 1990s provided us again. A wise Latin man (Vegetius, for those playing at home) once said, “si vis pacem, para bellum”—if you want peace, prepare for war. This is not an invitation to craft a foreign policy that will have the United States intervening in all corners of the world, in every internal conflict. But at the very minimum, there needs to be a feeling of urgency from our candidates that external affairs are still very much in the front of their minds.
Let us imagine the United States as a bard, floating gently on the waters of proverbial international conflict. As of yet, the passengers—us—are involved in boisterous infighting (equally amusing and disconcerting to watch), directed primarily at our captain and crew. The waters are a choppy, but no one is complaining about their things being thrown about under the deck. However—there are stronger waters, stronger storms ahead. The new captain cannot allow infighting to take control of the entire journey. He is not expected to predict and act on every major or minor conflict abroad—that would be too much to ask of a mere mortal.
But he needs to have a plan.