The Brussels Attacks and Why Hillary Clinton is the Only Candidate Who Passes the Foreign Policy Test
News came early this morning that for the third time in less than a year, a terrorist attack has rocked a European city. The BBC reports that in what authorities suspect is a twin blasts on Brussels, Belgium, 31 people are dead, and many more are injured. President Obama spoke from Havana as he condemned the attacks and committed the resources of the United States to helping European and Belgian authorities both deal with this tragedy and bring its perpetrators to justice.
The President also called the Belgian Prime Minister, a readout of which is made available by the White House.
All the presidential candidates have issued statements condemning the attack and expressing solidarity with Belgium, but one candidate stood head and shoulders above the rest as she made the rounds on the morning shows. While Donald Trump repeated his commitment to using torture and his call for a ban on all Muslims, Hillary Clinton not only repudiated the tactics of fear and intimidation by both terrorists and right wing Americans like Mr. Trump, she laid out, in detail, a strategy to win.
Hillary Clinton admonished Belgian authorities for outlawing night raids, favored expanding NATO based cooperation, and spoke about the need to both fight ISIS on the ground and deplete their arms as well as their funds. She stressed the critical requirement to intensify intelligence gathering tools, including, she hinted, tools that people have been demagogued in the past. In the process, she ripped apart the oft-repeated GOP excuse that if our enemies commit war crimes, then so should we, reminding Americans that the world stands together with us because of those values.
The President of the United States is given unparalleled power in conducting foreign policy, and those powers are much less restrained by Congressional checks than domestic and economic policy. It's the reason President Obama was able to reach the historic Iran nuclear deal and reopen diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Because the president is given immense power in conducting foreign policy, great responsibility falls to that office as well. Hillary Clinton is not only the candidate in this race - from either party - with the most expansive array of experience in foreign policy and international relations, she is the one candidate who has made the decision to delve into great policy details when it comes to foreign affairs.
When it comes to the presidency and America's global influence, soundbites simply will not do: whether those soundbites are Donald Trump's fearmongering and torture-pimping, or whether those soundbites are Bernie Sanders' one-trick pony of noun, verb, I-voted-against-Iraq.
If Donald Trump has developed a foreign policy of isolationism (except when he finds carpet bombing convenient) out of fear and ignorance, Bernie Sanders has developed a lack of foreign policy platform out of sheer indifference. Even today, Bernie Sanders was the last of the presidential candidates to issue a statement on the Brussels attacks, and since issuing that statement, he hasn't had much to say at all. Not surprising for a candidate who simply is not that interested in foreign policy. I'm sure a more even income distribution curve will take care of the terrorism problem, after all, it worked out for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, according to Bernie Sanders.
Before he became President, Barack Obama had developed a deep understanding of global affairs not simply by giving speeches and opposing a foreign policy blunder. He was deeply involved and interested in nuclear and other WMD nonproliferation and chaired the subcommittee on European Affairs (hmm). He addressed foreign policy in great depth during his first campaign, and his view of Iraq, terrorism and Al Queda was far more nuanced and detailed than anything Bernie Sanders has said. And while Bernie Sanders has managed to name a single foreign policy adviser so far in the campaign, candidate Barack Obama had amassed a "mini-state department" of foreign policy experts on his team who contributed to his daily briefing long before he was elected president, and even had an impressive team at this point during the 2008 primaries.
Of course, Hillary Clinton herself headed President Obama's foreign policy team for four years, including at the time the President took great risk to take out bin Laden, a decision with which Secretary Clinton concurred.
The attacks in Brussels, as we mourn with the people of Belgium, should remind us that foreign policy is not a back-burner issue. Foreign policy is an act of delicate balance that must be informed by expert opinion, detailed knowledge, presidential judgment, and a practical approach of engagement, strength, and diplomacy coupled with the willingness to use force as a last resort.
While there are no perfect candidates and no perfect presidents, there is only one candidate who meets (and aces) the foreign policy test and the commander-in-chief test this year, and her name is Hillary Rodham Clinton.
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