Foreign Policy in Election 2012: A Reflection After the RNC

By Megan Sehr on September 6, 2012
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Republican presidential candidate, Mitty Romney. Photograph by Cletch at Flickr

Many politicians at this year’s Republican National Convention criticized President Obama’s foreign policy, calling for a stronger American position.  Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated, “Dictators in Iran and Syria butcher their people and threaten regional security.  Russia and China prevent a response, and everyone asks, where does America stand?”

The foreign policy debate is becoming more relevant as we enter the last two months before Election Day.  Over the past four years, the world has seen massive turmoil.  European countries are in the midst of economic meltdowns; the Iranian government is further developing a nuclear program; and the Middle East was shaken by the revolutions of the Arab Spring.

Compared to the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration has received favorable foreign policy marks both at home and in countries like England, France, and Japan (although his rating has slipped since he took office, and Muslim countries remain critical about his foreign policy).  His reluctance to dive into foreign entanglements and his willingness to participate in the United Nations has been better received by the international community.

However, the Obama Administration has also faced criticism, and it hasn’t just come from the Republican Party.

Obama has been criticized for the increased use of unmanned drones in countries like Yemen and Pakistan.  The legality of targeted drone strikes in other countries has been a source of debate, and many analysts believe that the unmanned drone strikes are a violation of other countries’ sovereignty.

Obama’s handling of the Arab Spring has also been heavily critiqued.  The Obama Administration’s reluctance to get involved in conflicts abroad has led to a fairly irrelevant position in the Middle East.  As the 18-month long bloodshed continues in Syria, rebel groups have turned to countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar for assistance.  Despite the magnitude of the revolutions sweeping the region, the United States has played a minor role and has been cautious to provide support.

Yet, aside from calling for a stronger American position, the Republicans seem unable to provide a uniform foreign policy front.  Few politicians were able to provide a specific foreign policy platform, and many didn’t even touch the subject.   As our national election approaches, the lack of detail is a little daunting.  Mitt Romney will have to provide a clearer picture of his foreign policy that isn’t just a discussion about America’s military prowess.

Over the next two months, I hope the American people will pay close attention to the proposed foreign policy ideas of the two candidates.  I want to see the candidates address questions about Iran, the Arab Spring (and U.S. relations with the new governments), Chinese-U.S. relations, and the European debt crisis.

In our heavily globalized world, how we choose to participate abroad is important for economy building and domestic security; and, I believe a strong foreign policy is just as important as a strong domestic policy.  After listening to the speeches made at the Republican National Convention, I want both candidates to detail their foreign policy ideas for the American people.

I want both candidates to answer the question, “Where does America stand?” What do you think?

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Megan Sehr is a sophomore at the University of Denver, and she is majoring in International Studies and Journalism Studies with minors in History and Hebrew. She wants to go into international journalism, and is interested in Middle Eastern politics and culture. She loves writing, reading, poetry, Mad Men, and good discussions.

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