A year ago, if you had predicted that the 2016 Presidential Election would come down between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton a political nuanced person would have told you that you were half right. Long before Ms. Clinton announced her candidacy for the White House, she always was, to the frustration of many Sanders supporters, the presumptive Democratic Nominee. Donald Trump truly has become the modern definition of the dark horse – that candidate who arises from seemingly impossible odds to not only succeed but to come in striking distance of the White House.
But here we are, four months from an Election between a successful real estate mogul and one of the most important political figures of the early twenty-first century. Mr. Trump’s rise has come from seeds of factionalism within the Republican Party while Ms. Clinton’s rise seems to be the prime example of a meritocracy in which the Democratic Party selected the most qualified, most experienced candidate for the President in all of U.S. history. But regardless of their ascents to power, both candidates appear to have a stark contrast between their proposals for the United States’ role in foreign relations.
While Mr. Trump says “we’re not going to invest in these alliances with NATO,” Secretary Clinton rolls her eyes.
The contrast between the handling of foreign relations as an issue even within the two campaigns is difficult to reconcile. When Mr. Trump says, “My primary consultant is myself,” he is declaring his own experience against the woman who traveled 956,733 miles during her tenure at the State Department.
Think about this: when you’re watching a debate (if you’re so inclined to do so when the opportunity arises) and one candidate says “Trust me, it’ll be great” and another lays out a policy proposal that came into fruition from a combination of experience and experts, who are you going to trust? Because the type of trust that emerges when voting for a President is not only based on the past, but based on what you trust that candidate to do with the power they will receive.
According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, 50 percent of Americans trust Hillary Clinton on the issue of terrorism compared to the 39 percent who trust Donald Trump on the same issue. How is it that a politician who has been investigated seven times by Congress and by the FBI – all regarding her tenure as Secretary of State – can emerge not just innocent, but victorious? With political attacks that would ruin any unseasoned politician, Hillary Clinton has emerged with the confidence of nearly half the nation.
Why is that? Ms. Clinton’s time as Secretary of State gives the American people a unique opportunity – to look at the foreign policy of a second Clinton White House. Ms. Clinton has used, very literally, “smart power” as a means of achieving an effective and holistic foreign policy. It is a policy she used during her tenure and it is a policy she will use if elected to the White House.
Smart power is, as said by Secretary Clinton herself, “the right combination of ... diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural” resources to further the aims and goals of American foreign policy. In short, smart power utilizes not just the strength of the military but also emphasizes the power, and potential usefulness, of political and economic alliances.
The extent to which the United States as a whole benefited from Secretary Clinton’s tenure and employment has never been matched in the 21st Century . Clinton allowed for the Iran nuclear deal’s framework to be put in place by advocating for tougher sanctions in response to the country’s developing nuclear program. Instead of advising the President to strike the nuclear facilities in Iran, she applied economic and diplomatic pressure on an already isolated country. The results? A nuclear deal that was able to curb the creation of a nuclear Iran.
Another example lies on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. Indonesia, a nation that has a high risk for terrorist attacks, employed the creation of its own counter-terrorism task force with the help of the U.S. Government, the United Nations, and other organizations. The result was an “invigorated law enforcement effort has disrupted plots, tracked down, arrested, and in some cases, killed al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist leaders.” Instead of deploying U.S. troops to Indonesia, the State Department brought together the United Nations, the F.B.I., and the Department of Justice to help curb terrorism in Southeast Asia.
After the Syrian Civil War ends and after Russia’s lust for more regional power is quelled, one war will still remain: the war on terror.
In previous years it seems that we have come to one conclusion about foreign terrorism and its affects on our nation: if we do not engage militarily we will suffer from more attacks. And yet there is another way, the smart power way. Certainly the war in Iraq placed military action before diplomatic (with former U.N. Secretary General calling the war illegal), so therefore could not be seen as an example of smart power. Iran and responded to diplomatic and economic pressures applied by the U.S. and the United Nations. If only the same tools were placed in higher priority with the weapons program in Iraq, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives would have been spared from battle.
Approaching the international threat posed by terrorists groups cannot be done by purely by military might alone. With 42 percent of Americans saying the U.S. Government did not make a mistake in invading Afghanistan, it can be easy to see why many Americans would be cautious of another foreign war. After a decade of war, the American people are weary. And in this time of trepidation of military engagement, why not utilize our alliances in the Middle East and the full extent of the U.N.’s infrastructure to rebuild nations destroyed by war? Or, as Secretary Clinton did, help to create robust and sophisticated anti-terrorism units in nations that face the threat of terror in their own lands.
Mr. Trump’s approach to deterring ISIS’ influence in the Middle East comes at a two-pronged approach. First, he would destroy the oil fields which fuels ISIS’ seemingly infinite pool of funds. Then, he would stop all purchasing of Saudi Arabian oil in order to coerce the nation into using its own military forces to attack ISIS.
Ms. Clinton’s approach is more holistic. She aims to defeat the terrorist group by increasing air campaigns and pursuing diplomatic approaches to both the Syrian Civil War and to the Sunni/Shia divide in Iraq. Along with this, Ms. Clinton seeks to work with allies to increase sharing of intelligence between countries to prevent the flow of terrorists into peaceful nations.
Although Mr. Trump’s approach is more of a flirtatious courtship with smart power, Ms. Clinton’s adherence to smart power still resonates in her campaign paving the way for a more peaceful and secure world.
If détente was Nixon’s foreign policy mastery, than Clinton’s is, without a doubt, smart power. It is a tactic that has been used in the past as an effective means of furthering not just the foreign policy goals of the United States, but also of peace in the world. And although Ms. Clinton had been criticized by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT.) about her vote on the war in Iraq and her handling of Libya, there has never been a candidate more qualified and skilled in the art and craft of diplomacy as Secretary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton’s record as Secretary of State demonstrates her mastery of diplomacy, a craft that is honed by only a select few in a world that is quick to jump to war. And if the nation embraces Ms. Clinton in November, our nation will enter into a diplomatic and foreign renaissance where intelligence trumps hate, where peace trumps war, where love trumps hate.
Tapp is the editor-in-chief of The Millennial Times.