Terrorism, climate change, social injustice, and economic uncertainty are just a handful of the challenges the world is confronting. Global issues are no longer something that can be ignored. Isolationism is no longer an option. The world is smaller than ever, with every action in one country starting a ripple like a rock thrown in a pond. How these ripples are handled, and who is elected to handle them, is more important than ever.
This year’s U.S. presidential election will have a greater impact on global stability more than any other in the last century. The core principles in which the U.S. was founded upon are in jeopardy, and if they are abandoned, the global impact will be immense. Freedom of religion, speech and the fundamental respect for human rights are in the cross-hairs of abandonment.
Since our founding as a country over 200 years ago, the U.S. has been a beacon to those wanting greater democracy and the benchmark by which many nations are measured as to the freedoms in which they give their citizens. However, there is no doubt that there have been occasions when the U.S. has abused that role within the international community and allowed their self-importance to be an obstacle to transformational change in some parts of the world. But that can occur when there is no set road map to world peace and justice and as with any journey that occurs absent a set path, we all can get lost.
But what is lurking on the horizon is the reality that the occasional failings of U.S. foreign policy might become a constant, resulting in world destabilization that will take generations to overcome. We live in a global society that is so intertwined that an action by one developed country is felt globally. Simply put, any military or economic action that any developed country puts forth can ripple worldwide and to that point, what the President of the United States does, or even says, in relation to global doctrine can quickly destabilize the world.
Just this month, we have seen the beginning of such destabilization where world leaders have begun asking for clarification of the views of the most likely Republican nominee for President, Donald Trump. (I need to put in the disclaimer that even though Trump is the odds on favorite to get the nomination, Ted Cruz or John Kasich could also get the nomination.)
Trump’s comments regarding leaving NATO, suggesting that Japan obtain nuclear weapons, the praising of Vladimir Putin (while denouncing the heroism of Senator John McCain), and the espousing of anti-Muslim sentiments to the point of calling for a complete ban on Muslims entering the United States, has left not only Americans, but people around the world concerned. Trump’s comments over the last six months has led to an unprecedented denouncement of his views by 50 of America’s leading Republican foreign policy experts. In their open letter dated March 2, 2016, they state, “Mr. Trump’s own statements lead us to conclude that as president, he would use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe, and which would diminish our standing in the world. Furthermore, his expansive view of how presidential power should be wielded against his detractors poses a distinct threat to civil liberty in the United States.” The letter concludes with, “[w]e commit ourselves to working energetically to prevent the election of someone so utterly unfitted to the office.”
What is important to note, is that this letter isn’t from leaders of one political party attacking another, it is Republicans publicly condemning the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination. This letter was published just shortly after another unprecedented act when the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, Michael Hayden, openly stated that the U.S. military might disobey orders if Trump becomes president.
There is no doubt that Americans, like many people around the world, are worried about terrorism and economic security. But preying on those insecurities, especially in a way not grounded in any facts, is reminiscence of a certain leader in Europe whose actions led to the death of millions.
I was just recently honored to have been asked to speak at the Center for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University. I spoke about the presidential race and was asked what I thought U.S. foreign policy would be like if Hillary Clinton were elected president. I stated simply that she would most likely continue the foreign policy agenda established during her tenure as Secretary of State. Let me be clear, I am a not a Hillary Clinton supporter but, as they say, “better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t”. Continuing with a foreign policy whose results are known or can be predicted, is better than a foreign policy that is driven by xenophobia with a likely outcome of world war, global economic meltdown, and at a minimum a religious divide between Christians and Muslims not seen since the Crusades.
I don’t worry too much about a president going wild with domestic policy changes – since Congress serves as a very strong check and balance on a president’s domestic policy agenda. But I do stay awake at night worrying about the foreign policy actions of our president. He or she in many ways can take unilateral action, without any real check on that action, and once the missile is out of the silo, there is no going back.
The world has seen the horrors of what an insecure, xenophobic, leader can bring – and if those qualities are possessed by the President of the United States, the world as we know it will be changed forever. Unfortunately, that possibility, that tipping point, is not as remote as it seems.
All the Best,