To understand how foreign policy will change after the 2012 presidential elections, we must first identify the trends in Washington and abroad. The 2004 and 2008 presidential elections dealt with foreign policy matters in grandiose and ideological terms, shaping the discourse on America's role in the world during the first decade of the twenty-first century. This November, foreign policy issues will take a back-seat to the economy—but not because we have taken on a smaller role in foreign affairs. The trend in Washington has called for greater US engagement abroad to promote liberal democratic values, free market principles and free trade to further US interests and secure hegemony. The campaign rhetoric of 2008 on both sides of the aisle did not depart from the conceptual trend of continued US engagement, only on how best and when to use our Armed Forces. For all of the perceived differences between Presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama, foreign policy changed little after the 2008 election. How foreign policy changes after the 2012 election, and America's role in an increasingly changing world, will depend not so much on who is elected president but on the difficult questions we ask to force a paradigm shift in Washington.
When then-Senator Obama was elected in 2008 he ran on a platform of change. By and large, Obama has held true to his promise. The change he promised included ending the war in Iraq, setting a timeline for withdrawal in Afghanistan, and broadly scaling back US boots-on-ground interventions. For his part, President Obama has been kept true to his campaign promises. Similarly, Romney discusses tightening the pressure on the Iranian regime and the need for more naval fleets as cornerstones of his foreign policy, issues he would most likely accomplish if elected president. Unfortunately, these changes in policy are exaggerated to energize the bases and are blown out of proportion by the 24-hour news media. They make it sound as if the democratic and republican parties are on completely opposite sides of the political spectrum. These disagreements on policy lack intellectual depth, as they have become the status quo of what the party establishments have settled upon. While Obama and Romney do have different backgrounds and worldviews (though not as pronounced as many believe) at their core both see greater US engagement as paramount to the foreign policy goals they want to accomplish. The paradox of the Obama Administration is that as they have called for less direct involvement, the proxy wars and constant drone strikes have noticeably increased--which ultimately will lead to prolonged conflict. If Romney is elected, tightening sanctions and marginalizing Iran even more could culminate in another avoidable armed conflict.
Since 2008 China has continued to steadily increase its purchasing power parity and establish itself in Africa. The Middle East was rocked by the so-called Arab Spring. Vladimir Putin has asserted Russia back as a serious geopolitical player in Asia. Iran and Israel have increased tensions and are on a collision path to war. Iraq was left a failed state. Afghanistan continues to flounder on any real progress. The trends around the world have been of increased tension towards the very principles espoused as cornerstones of US foreign policy. We must ask, then, does greater presence abroad increase our national security and foster freer trade? Are we any better off? Politics has become a reactionary sport in Washington—but on this point we must agree to ask the questions. The Obama and Romney campaigns are microcosms for how so many of us see the world: as black or white, republican or democrat, pro-war or anti-war. But these aren't are only options. It is how many of us have been conditioned to think, shackling our potential by limiting our options and intellectual capability. This election, expect foreign policy to follow the conventional trend prevalent in the Obama and Romney campaigns, unless we do something about it.
Unfortunately, I think the Republican Party at large lacks the ability for empathy. This was evident during the first of two SC debates when the crowd was heard booing Dr. Paul when he suggested applying the golden rule to our foreign policy. Is this idea so radical? Are we not a Christian Nation founded on Christianity's principles? What the hell is going on in this country? Why are we in such a rush to go to war? These are questions that Americans would benefit from answering for themselves.