During presidential elections in the United States, foreign policy is downplayed more often than not. A prime example is George Bush, Sr., during whose tenure in office the victorious Gulf War known as “Desert Storm” was waged, but mainly, real socialism and the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991.
George H. W. Bush, who was the winner of a recent real war as well as a long-lasting Cold War, was defeated in the 1992 presidential elections by Bill Clinton, who pledged better days for the economy. The phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid,” which was coined by his strategist James Carville, rationalized Bill Clinton’s success and became historic.
Today, two months before the U.S. midterm elections at the beginning of November, with control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate at stake, and two years before the 2016 presidential elections, Republicans, for one, are in the ideological shadow of being held hostage to the extreme right tea party platform, but mainly, because they are blamed for the emergence of the financial crisis in the fall of 2008, they cannot confront the Democrats over the economy, even if retooled with the resurrected Reagan agenda.
So for some time now, since the midterm elections of 2010, they have chosen a foreign policy through which they sideswipe Obama with relative ease as being hesitant, indecisive and lacking strategy, and through Sen. John McCain, who was Obama’s rival during the presidential elections of 2008, playing a leading role in a bid to exert harsh interventionism, from Ukraine to the Middle East. Hillary Clinton, the anointed 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, has joined the game.
The former secretary of state during Obama’s administration is not mentioned so much for being head of the State Department, which was, in fact, aligned with Obama’s choices, but rather [to refer to the time] during her husband Bill Clinton’s second term when hard-liner Madeline Albright succeeded the moderate head of American diplomacy, Warren Christopher.
In such a context, leading political players who were asserted during the eight-year Bush presidency played a key role in shaping foreign policy. The conflict between Democrats and Republicans on foreign policy issues is sometimes exported abroad, as was the case in Georgia in the summer of 2008, when the State Department warned Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili not to provoke the Kremlin, while at the same time Republican Sen. John McCain encouraged a head-on collision with Putin.
Even today, in Ukraine, there are leading players and organizations that consider the Obama foreign policy to be lukewarm, and have already safeguarded their sidelines under leading Republican players, who are planning their opposition strategy on foreign policy and defense issues.
What we are dealing with is a new order in American politics, since foreign policy becomes a dominant issue only when it involves active engagement of the U.S. in a world conflict.
In the 1916 elections, Woodrow Wilson was re-elected after pledging the country would not engage in World War I. Two months after he took office, he waged war against Germany, using the sinking of the ocean liner Lusitania by a German submarine as a pretext. With the firm commitment that “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars,” Franklin D. Roosevelt, after campaigning for his third term, became president in November 1940, one year before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and the involvement of the United States in WWII.
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