Political Column: The value of foreign policy

Brenden Hill

If you watched the news, election coverage or debates, you would find it easy to forget that most of the president’s power relates to foreign policy, or that Congress should be more active when it comes to non-domestic issues.

Nowadays, it’s common to have presidential nominees and candidates with a clearer legislative agenda than a foreign policyvision. That seems strange considering how they have no control over legislation, let alone the ability to pass bills, outside of limited executive orders.

Of course, the reason there is so much focus on domestic policy is partially reasonable. People want to know about things that will directly affect them. Often, foreign policy isn’t focused on by the media. Thus, for current presidents or nominees, focusing on foreign policy is simply not worth the time.

Even when foreign policy gets talked about, it is often in simple, incorrect or unhelpful ways. That can be seen clearly in the coverage of the recent “Middle East Peace Deal” (aka just a normalization agreement, not an actual peace deal) signed by the Trump administration, or in the previous Trump administration’s meetings with North Korea. 

The way issues get treated or talked about in the media is locked in a hawkish tone. Things like the Iran Deal can get butchered, but shooting missiles onto an empty airport in Syria is treated as a groundbreaking mythic event.

Instead of being treated like a critical realm of policy making, foreign affairs are often ignored or treated like the red-carpet premiere of a new movie. Successfully navigating foreign policy is essential, but it is so often given short shrift that doing so can get harder and harder. 

Other policy areas like healthcare and taxation remain important, but these issues often swallow up all the oxygen. That can be seen in this presidential election and within the political system as a whole.

What is Trump’s foreign policy vision? What is Joe Biden’s? On the congressional side, what is Josh Hawley’s? What is Emanuel Cleaver’s?

The fact that I can know the difference between a Republican’s and a Democrat’s opinion on tax cuts but not on drone strike, is a problem.

It is unreasonable to expect people, no matter how powerful, to have an opinion or knowledge on everything. However, if your job is being a policymaker, it is not unreasonable to expect you to know about policy.

Plus, the more people don’t think about these issues, the more they just get passed on to the same people from the ghost of administrations past. 

Seeking to find any foreign policy theory or framework for either party or presidential candidate would be an impossible task, which is a real tragedy.

Currently, foreign policy is not being given the importance it’s due. That needs to change, because the way we think about the world and our role in it has to evolve.

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