from The Water's Edge

Foreign Policy Roundup: Treason, Debates, and Progressive Foreign Policy

President Trump's Republican challengers, former Congressman Joe Walsh (l) and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld (r), debate each other in New York on September 24. Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters

Each Friday from now until Election Day, I will be looking at what the presidential candidates are saying about foreign policy on the campaign trail. 

September 27, 2019

President Trump's Republican challengers, former Congressman Joe Walsh (l) and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld (r), debate each other in New York on September 24. Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters
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The 2020 campaign continues even as impeachment talk dominates the news this week. Since I spend a lot of time reading what President Donald Trump’s challengers have to say about foreign policy, as well as what journalists and academics have to say about what the candidates have said (or haven’t said), I thought I would provide a roundup each Friday of what I have seen and read. These roundups won’t be about Trump’s foreign policy because I have co-authored a book about that. And by flagging articles I am not necessarily endorsing what they argue, just suggesting that you might find what their authors have to say interesting or informative.

On the impeachment question, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, who is running a long-shot campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, accused Trump on Monday of “treason” for his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy. The Constitution, however, specifically states that “treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” A phone call to the leader of a friendly country, even if it involves impeachable behavior, doesn’t look to meet that standard.

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Business Insider hosted a debate on Tuesday night between Weld and fellow long-shot Republican president contender Joe Walsh, a former Congressman from Illinois. Not surprisingly, both men criticized Trump’s handling of foreign policy. Among other things, Weld said he would rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Iran nuclear deal, while Walsh argued that Trump “claims to be a non-interventionist but he's awful quick on sending those troops” to foreign countries.

As for the Democratic debates, this week Tulsi Gabbard became the twelfth Democrat to qualify for the next debate, which is to be held at on October 15 at 8 p.m. eastern time on the campus of Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. CNN anchors Erin Burnett and Anderson Cooper and New York Times national editor Marc Lacey are set to moderate. With twelve people sharing the stage—no other candidates are likely to qualify by next Tuesday’s deadline—the candidates probably won’t get to discuss foreign policy in any depth, even if the moderators bother to ask.

Bernie Sanders told a town hall in Decorah, Iowa on Monday that he would pull U.S. support for Saudi Arabia if Riyadh couldn’t work out its differences with Tehran:

What President Bernie Sanders would do is bring Saudi Arabia, bring Iran around the table and say, ‘You know what? We’re not going to spend trillions of dollars sorting out your laundry. Get it together. Stop your damn wars, alright?’

Sanders doesn’t appear to have said what he would do if Iran refused to agree to a settlement on terms he found acceptable.

Simon Lewis summarized the positions that the ten leading Democratic presidential candidates have staked out on foreign policy.

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Leila Ettachfini laid out where each of the Democratic presidential candidates stands on Israel and Palestine. She applauds the fact that several candidates are breaking with the traditional consensus on Israel and criticizing the policies of the Netanyahu government. Whether Democratic voters will agree is another matter.

Speaking of a breakdown in consensus, Ian Bateson and Tom McTague argued in the Atlantic that the current controversy over Ukraine highlights how the traditional bipartisan consensus on foreign policy is breaking down. They offer U.S. policy toward Britain and Israel as other examples. Whether these examples amount to a significant change probably lies in the eyes of the beholder. Democrats and Republicans have been fighting over foreign policy for decades, so much so that it is easy to overlook how much bipartisan consensus exists—at least on Capitol Hill—on issues such as China and Russia.

Thomas Wright recently assessed the efforts of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to articulate a “progressive foreign policy.” His conclusion is that they are “closer to President Barack Obama’s worldview than their rhetoric lets on.” Whether one accepts Tom’s conclusion or not, his article provides a good introduction to the debate over a progressive foreign policy, along with links to a range of contending perspectives.

There are 129 days left until the Iowa caucuses and 403 days until Election Day.

Margaret Gach assisted in the preparation of this post.

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