Why The U.S. Needs a President Who Knows Foreign Policy

Author: James Ryan
Created: 18 February, 2015
Updated: 21 November, 2022
4 min read

As the world handles the aftermath of the Great Recession and subsequent Eurozone Crisis, the Democratic and Republican parties continue to fight over most foreign policy issues in a stalemate that compromises U.S. influence in world affairs. The general lack of public will and support after prolonged engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan has left even the most noble of our leadership hamstrung, as the necessary political appetite for addressing the full portfolio of the United States' global commitments is diminished.

And yet the world keeps turning, and the international political landscape keeps changing. President Barack Obama has requested war powers from Congress to combat the rising influence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Yemeni government is waging a civil war against Shiite rebels and al-Qaida operatives. Boko Haram continues a path of slaughter as the group rolls through Nigerian cities and strategic zones.  Controversial free trade agreements in the Trans-Pacific and the Transatlantic areas, once stalled, may now have new life with a new Congress.

Through all this, American leadership maintains its place as the strongest force in the world, a position that will stand for the foreseeable future.  At the helm is our president, who is charged with the duty of managing America's role on the international stage. In November 2016, we will have a new chief executive, and before voters make their choice, it is crucial that they know what to look for in a candidate:

Our nation's commander-in-chief should be prepared to articulate a grand national strategy that makes the best use of our military and economic strength, diplomatic channels, and world-class intelligence capabilities. He or she will need the savvy to navigate internal forces as well as external, taking into account the political and economic capital on hand when weighing actions.

As those resources are finite, the next administration will need to prioritize strategic commitments (wars, alliances, interventions, etc.) and bring them back into line with national interest, treasure, and public will. America must not find itself in a situation where long-term interests fall prey to regular power shifts in Washington, as global affairs are highly dependent on steady leadership from the United States.

Our next president should be prepared to work to improve relations and conditions in the Atlantic community, particularly between the United States and the European Union.

Authoritarian capitalistic systems in the East are making gains in relative and absolute economic growth, and have secured advantages in trade while democracies in the West are still recovering from recession and economic crises. The solution? An American economic policy that promotes fair trade practices, enhances domestic industry, and truly encourages reforms in nations that do not play by the same rules as everyone else.

Our nation's next executive will need to find the balance between energy independence and environmental preservation. When it comes to national security, eliminating our dependence on foreign sources -- particularly sources that do not share free and democratic values -- must be of top-tier concern.

U.S. shale oil is presently dominating the market, and has replaced OPEC as the first-mover "swing producer" -- meaning OPEC is losing power to set global prices for crude oil. By 2019, the United States will match Saudi Arabia in production.

In the meantime, an emphasis should be put on the administration to develop viable alternative and sustainable energy sources, as oil is a finite -- and environmentally damaging -- resource that will need to be replaced.

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The next leader of the free world will need to be one who works with our allies, promotes common values, and builds coalitions against tyranny and oppression. He or she will need to walk the line between intervention and non-intervention, as demanding American control over the world will only create more enemies, and isolationist policies only leave holes for our strategic enemies to exploit.

That said, if simply making these statements was enough to qualify a presidential candidate for the office, even I would make a bid (though we would have to wait 13 years). America needs a president who not only talks the talk, but has the foreign policy credentials to provide the direction and leadership our country needs.

The early field for 2016 provides a small offering of such potential candidates.

Former U.S. Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) has a decorated military career and served as the secretary of the Navy under the Reagan administration. Former U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) served as secretary of state under the Obama administration and is the favorite to advance to the general election on the Democratic ticket. However, she has been dogged by criticism of the administration's handling of Boko Haram and the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) serves on both the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, ranking him at the top of the Republican field when it comes to foreign policy knowledge and experience.

As American citizens -- and as voters -- it is our duty to elect a president who will seek this path in foreign policy, and articulate a strategy that will promote American interests in the short- and long-term. He or she will need to be informed, and willing to make tough decisions when it counts.

The choice is ours.

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