Ghavri: Misguided Foreign Policy

by Anmol Ghavri | 2/24/16 6:45pm

The race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination is reaching a fever pitch with March looming right around the corner. Donald Trump won the Nevada caucus two days ago and leads the GOP primary delegate count, although establishment support is beginning to coalesce around Marco Rubio. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has dropped out while Sen. Ted Cruz is still in the race. The candidates’ vague policies on a whole range of issues have warranted criticism on many fronts. Republican foreign policy stances in particular have revealed the candidates’ delusional world views and national security stances. Specifically, the GOP presidential candidates advocate for the repetition of uninformed, jingoistic and unilateral national security and Middle East policies that have failed in the past and sowed the seeds of present day instability.

Donald Trump, the GOP frontrunner, has not released a single white paper or issues page on his website on national security or the Middle East. Just as bad, he has not established any coherent platform on counterterrorism, national security or Middle East policy in interviews. Trump often claims that he will bring in the world’s experts on foreign policy when he is in the White House. However, the president serves as both commander-in-chief and chief diplomat and cannot solely rely on others to make important foreign policy decisions. The fact that Trump has not articulated a credible position on Middle East and security policy (except that he will somehow destroy ISIS) should frighten everyone.

In a recent column, Duke University professor of political science Peter Feaver asserted that Trump’s national security policy would look like a high school Model UN. In addition, he accused Trump of failing to “talk responsibly or learnedly about national security .” Trump has also managed to insult the entire Arab-Muslim world through his anti-Muslim rhetoric, severely undermining America’s coalitional relationships with Arab nations that are fighting ISIS. If Trump is elected in November, the most powerful man in the world will essentially be uninformed on the complex issues facing the Middle East and the United States regarding security, stability and counterterrorism.

Rubio, a first term senator from Florida, certainly understands foreign affairs more than Trump. He serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Committee on Foreign Relations, which “holds jurisdiction over all diplomatic nominations” and helps “shape foreign policy of broad significance, in matters of war and peace and international relations .” Nevertheless, Rubio is still a first term senator. He believes America’s national security apparatus and foreign policy needs to be much more muscular. He wants to implement a more confrontational, unilateral and interventionist foreign policy, which shows that he has failed to learn from past GOP-backed policies.

Similar to Rubio, Cruz, the first-term Texas senator, is reasonably informed on matters of national security and Middle East policy. With regard to fighting ISIS, Cruz offers a reasonable policy of special operations troops directing targeted airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. However, during the December 2015 GOP debate in Iowa, Cruz claimed that if elected president, the U.S. “[would] utterly destroy [ISIS]” and “carpet bomb them into oblivion.” This indiscriminate bombing of possible civilian areas violates international law. By condoning this act, Washington would forfeit its moral high ground over Russia, which is accused of indiscriminately bombing Bashar al-Assad’s enemies in Syria. Overall, carpet bombing ISIS isn’t the answer. Instead, the U.S. will make more enemies by radicalizing Arabs who currently have nothing to do with ISIS. Unnecessary acts of force will only destabilize the Middle East further and harm America’s national security.

To achieve peace in the Middle East and a safe homeland, the U.S. cannot act impulsively, as GOP candidates recommend. The U.S. can best serve its interests and the Middle East by building coalitions. In order to deal with the most pressing security issues in the Middle East, Arab nations must lead the way and be brought in as partners in a coalition. Ignorance, indiscriminate force and unilateral military action will perpetuate the problems currently facing the U.S. and the Middle East. Certainly, a Trump, Rubio or Cruz presidency will compromise our relations with the Arab world and, as a result, jeopardize our national security.