By Harry C. Blaney III
Looking back on this election day there are several basic assessment one can make in terms of the debate and its foreign affairs and national security implications.
The first impression is that there was too little real serious debate about the reality of the challenges we faced around the world and exactly how we should manage our policies and engagement with others. The most serious statements were clearly made by Hillary Clinton which is not surprising given her service as Secretary of State and a one time member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and being in the White House for 8 years. The other assessment sadly is the complete ignorance and even destructive approaches and utterances of Donald Trump which not only exposed his lack of fitness for any serious public office let alone Commander-in-chief, but also that he has already before this election diminished the faith and respect of America abroad among those that have been paying any attention to our presidential campaign.
The second impression is that while not the highlight of most of the debates, foreign affairs was a topic that had more space than in earlier presidential elections when we were not directly at war. Those debates and some key statement by the candidates showed a wide divide between Clinton and Trump. They were wider than ever seen before and bordered in some cases to the absurd – like building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, praising Putin by Trump, declaring that our defense of our NATO and other allies would depend on their “payments” for defense. Not least in this area was Trump’s praise of the worst dictators on the face of the earth. Much of this, like his absurd domestic statements, did little to dent his popularity among his adherents but caused fear to most of the world.
The third impression, follows from the second impression, that is we have a massive job of educating our citizens and our students about the world beyond our borders. This is seen most obviously on issues of existential dangers on a global scale like nuclear weapons and climate change. Here the refusal of Trump and most Republicans to accept that our climate is changing and that it is due to human intervention, but indeed he advocated for policies which will hasten catastrophic impacts on most of the earth’s surface in the lifetime of those living. We have already seen many areas that are paying heavily a price in terms of weather disasters. There are even some U.S. states that are discouraging information to their citizens of the reality of this risk. This must change no mater who wins this election.
The second area of nuclear weapons clearly did not resonate enough with our citizens even as polls showed people concerned about them. Too many ignored the obvious conclusion that Trump would put the entire globe at mortal risk with his threat to use them and our military in a cavalier manner including suggesting that other nations might like to have them! Nuclear nonproliferation has been a keystone in our efforts to make sure these weapons are never used. His positions could spur unneeded arms races. His lack of even being attentive to or desiring to learn about hard complex strategic issues and a lack of sane character or temperament which such a large responsibility requires is abundantly manifest. Further, the media on both these issues and others was clearly derelict to press deeply either Trump or Clinton on these issues or analyze the difference between them.
The basic conclusion is clearly we are near an historical and societal crisis tipping point at home and abroad with this election no matter who will win. In a world of enormous high risks that need urgent attention the Republicans mindlessly have in effect said they would oppose almost anything that Clinton would propose domestically or in foreign affairs. Should Trump win, we are in for undermining the confidence of our allies including NATO, likely encouraging Putin to press his aggression even harder, giving leeway the most dictatorial and ruthless rulers around the world, alienating our relations with Mexico, and creating a trade war with most of the world. The list goes on.
Clinton, if she would win, will be faced with horrendous set of domestic and international challenges. But at least she knows them, is smart, and is more likely to search cooperatively with other nations and international organizations to seek solutions and reduce strategic risks and cement our alliances. She has a history on human rights especially women and children’s rights which always need attention. We can also expect her attention to the global trend toward even greater inequality which has spurred so much upheavals and conflicts around the world and is unlikely to be a concern in a Trump presidency.
Tonight Americans will be watching their TV, or other devices, with no small amount of tension and much apprehension about the results. But around the world there will be equal fears and doubts about the future of our globe and its prosperity and security over the outcome. Despite all words to the contrary, America remains still the major lead actor for addressing our many critical global challenges. Obama has already proved, despite all the opposition by the Republicans, that America is “great” with his Iran nuclear agreement, the Paris Climate Change Agreement, his nuclear arms limitation New START 2011 treaty agreement, and not least, helping to rescue our global recession from total disaster, and bringing new respect for America around the world. Now the question is who will best follow him and do likewise and hopefully be as wise?
One thing is clear: we can not and should not be estranged from the rest of the world!
Stay tuned, after the election we will do an analysis of what a new administration will look like and its impact at home and abroad, as well as likely our engagement around the world!
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