Voters should focus on foreign policy in 2012 election

By Anne Davey, Staff Writer

October 3, 2012

Four years.

314 million citizens.

240 million voters.

50 states and one federal District.

538 Electoral College votes.

This… is the 2012 United States Presidential Election.

The stage is now set for the 57th American Presidential Election, which takes place on Nov. 6.

The U.S. has been a key player on the world stage for the past several decades. This role as the sole superpower has increased the expectations for U.S. intervention worldwide. Now, the supremacy of the U.S. is being tested by the rising forces of nations like Russia, China and India.

While the European Union rises economically, and the Arab Spring reshapes the entire Middle East, the U.S. is steadily falling behind in major areas of needed advancement. Regardless of how one looks at it, against all expectations, this is shaping up to be the American century. It is these next few decades that will shape the world, the world that we, as a generation will live, work and hopefully thrive in.

We are carrying the fate of the U.S. more than most generations before it, and this next presidential election has unprecedented potential to affect the entire world—and our lives.

Though the State Department takes prime authority in administering foreign policy, the president is, for all intents and purposes, the chief creator and leader of our national foreign policies. Our American president has the executive right and the moral authority to shape the actions this country takes in managing its international relationships with foreign nations and independent actors worldwide. Foreign policy with other nations takes many forms and focuses on a myriad of issues, including, security, economics, immigration, environmental issues, culture and ideologies.

Over the past four years, there has been tremendous tension between President Obama’s ‘soaring rhetoric’ and his desire for fundamental change on the one hand, and his tendency towards governing pragmatically on the other. The foreign policy of the Obama administration has thus been one of attempting to balance his lofty visions with his realistic and cautious nature. This nature, combined with the political climates and the global issues of the past four years has led to more inaction than anything, thus many question whether he has a real strategy and plans or simply responds to events after they occur.

Nonetheless, President Obama’s platform for the upcoming election regards nuclear proliferation as “the most urgent threat to the security of America and the world.” He speaks about providing a visionary leadership and the need to renew the U.S. global leadership through proper foreign policy, and a renewed military.

In the President’s recent speech to the U.N he stated, “This century’s threats are at least as dangerous as and in some ways more complex than those we have confronted in the past. They come from weapons that can kill on a mass scale and from global terrorists who respond to alienation or perceived injustice with murderous nihilism. They come from rogue states allied to terrorists and from rising powers that could challenge both America and the international foundation of liberal democracy. They come from weak states that cannot control their territory or provide for their people. And they come from a warming planet that will spur new diseases, spawn more devastating natural disasters, and catalyze deadly conflicts.”

Mitt Romney’s foreign policy focuses on two main issues in the forefront that will serve to strengthen the U.S.’s position as an economic and military superpower. One pertains to ‘defeating the Jihadists’ and the other relates to ‘competing with Asia.’

Romney argues that since the Asian economies are rapidly expanding, the U.S. will need to shed its protectionist approach in regards to the economy; the U.S. will need to expand its markets even further. This, he says, can be done by reducing the tariffs, bringing down the corporate taxes and by employing a competitive advantage in the market.

Mitt Romney believes that a three-pronged approach would take care of the Jihadists. This approach would include the employment of military options and pressure, diplomacy and exhorting the Muslims to reject extremism.

Economic revitalization has been touted as the core of the Romney plan. In a recent news broadcast he stated, “I became convinced that the crucial difference between these countries wasn’t geography. I noticed the most successful countries shared something in common. They were the freest. They protected the rights of the individual. They enforced the rule of law. And they encouraged free enterprise. They understood that economic freedom is the only force in history that has consistently lifted people out of poverty – and kept people out of poverty.”

In theory, this also sounds quite reasonable, and we will have to wait and see how these plans do or do not come to be. What we can determine though, is how much emphasis Romney places on these factors. Is foreign policy a huge part of his platform, or are these stances taken simply to have an opinion?

These platforms, though both different in nature and design, should be of central importance to the election because of the major impact they will have on the future of American citizens. Too often, these topics take a back seat to issues like abortion, teachers and taxing. While these issues are all important, foreign policy is just as, if not more important, thus equal attention should be paid and air time given to them.

When we are confronted with issues of foreign policy, content is often pushed aside for constant streams of criticism and parties bashing one another for their “weaknesses” and “failures” regarding the subject. The important thing is to stick to the facts and make foreign policies themselves the central issues.

As they say, talk is cheap and action is what counts. Until these candidates announce plans of action, until they tell us the ‘how’ and not just the ‘what’ we must be constantly critical and on guard. It is not only the president that will deal with the ramifications of a weakened American state, of falling standards, low technological development and poor representation abroad, but it is us as well.

We will continue to compete against people from across the globe in fields where America was once dominant. We will continue to fall behind and will be forced to be wary of other nations’ intentions. In this increasingly global community, interactions with the world, and how the rest of the globe views America, will weigh heavily on our lives. From investment banking, diplomacy, law, teaching and the military, no field will be left unaffected.

It is for reasons such as these that now, more than ever, it is our job to pay attention, to research and to cast our vote in favor of who will do the most to help our American nature and secure our positions for the future. For our sake, and the sake of the world in its entirety, we must make foreign policy a central issue.