March 9, 2016

MALPASS | What Will the Rest of the World Think?

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Quite the circus our election is this cycle. Although I was once greatly interested in the politics and the political sphere (at one point I even toyed with the idea of following the career path of a politician), I have recently reached a point of sincere disinterest in the entire process. Maybe “disinterest” is the wrong word, seeing as I still understand the frightening gravity of whom we elect to public office. Perhaps “disgust” is a better term. How can you not be fed up with the entire process?

I may as well state my biases to get them out of the way. I’m am not a Democrat nor a Republican, but officially affiliated with the Green party, meaning I consider the environment to be the most pressing issue at hand and my political opinions are generally ignored. I am both socially and fiscally liberal. Now that that’s out of the way, on to my opinions that you have now either validated or invalidated based on your own leanings.

I’ve heard plenty of the damage that any one of these candidates might do at home, but is anyone paying attention to how these presidential hopefuls are received overseas? I know we as a country have a tendency to be rather insular when it comes to politics. The only problems that matter are our own (not a totally unjust opinion) and the rest of the world is only an afterthought (a terribly dangerous opinion). We can talk all day long about which candidate will bring in the most jobs back, or which will revitalize (resurrect?) our precious American dream, but I’ve heard disturbingly little on each candidate’s foreign policy experience.

At best, American politics is indifferent to the rest of the world, and at worst it sees it as a sort of playground. Each election cycle tends to focus on one foreign policy issue and one only. This year’s nebulous terror threat is Daesh (another name for ISIS, one they prefer less). I don’t mean to undermine the global threat they pose, but it would nice to see more attention given to other important issues. For example, the Paris Climate Accord decision — notable in being the first climate change agreement to include every country — has recently been threatened by the Supreme Court. This has led many to fear that the U.S.’s inability to meet goals will lead to slippage in other countries. This is perhaps the most important climate change agreement of our time, and while there hasn’t been total radio silence on the issue, we’ve heard comparatively little about it.

Beyond the individual issues, foreign policy discussions are important because it gives us an idea of how the candidate will interact with foreign powers, and how they in turn might view us. The president is not just a legislative executor; theya re also the face of our country. When the topic of the U.S. is brought up among people of other nations, chances are they don’t envision us any more than we see them. Instead they see our political leaders. Our president is, in every sense of the word, our representative to the world.

Which is why how the candidates conduct themselves in the debates is so wildly important. Sure, it may be amusing to see the political mudslinging, gaffes and waffling during the nomination process, but one of these individuals will eventually have to meet with foreign leaders. Consider the party nomination debates as a precursor to what a meeting between our president and Vladimir Putin might look like.

Which is really a sobering thought. Regardless of what their views are, consider personality. Donald Trump is brash, stubborn, and apparently thinks it’s appropriate to reference his penis sizein a public discussion. He has tweeted that the Chinese of fabricating the so called “claim” of global warming, accused the Mexicans of sending rapists and drug mules to this country and that the only we to fight ISIS is to kill their family members. Cruz is hardly better; his idea of fighting ISIS is to carpet bomb wherever ISIS is , never mind the fact that indiscriminate bombing very often kills civilians, which in turn tends to create more terrorists. Not mention the fact that he is almost universally hated by everyone who’s met him.

While domestic policy is important in choosing the next president of the United States, we need to be cognizant of how these people will be perceived abroad. Much as I’m wary of Hillary Clinton, her track record as Secretary of State is encouraging, although Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) has time and time again proven himself to be respectful of various and diverse mindsets. Foreign policy is not simply in legislation and ideas, it’s also in the ability to treat a foreign leader with respect and dignity. After all, it could mean the difference between peace and war.

Soren Malpass is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]. Sorenity Now appears alternate Thursdays this semester.