There is no more surefire method for losing a battle than to never bother fighting it.
The news that Representative Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) has jumped into the 2020 race, with a campaign that will focus heavily on foreign policy, raises a vital question: Shouldn’t it be concerning that the Democratic Party had to wait for its 20th presidential contender before any of them thought it important to address the question of national security? And won’t this all but guarantee President Trump’s near-default victory in that particular arena?
The answer to both questions, of course, is a resounding “Yes.”
When Foreign Policy Is Foreign
If there is one positive and distinguishing factor regarding Moulton’s otherwise-longshot bid, it should be his laudable effort to oust Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as Speaker of the House following the 2018 elections. For that reason alone he is, like his colleague Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), just a little less insufferable than the rest of his peers.
If there’s a second redeeming factor of his candidacy, it’s that his emphasis on national security comes as a result of his own service with the Marines in the Iraq War and his short-lived tenure on the House Armed Services Committee. In any event, it is always beneficial to the country to keep our nation’s security at the forefront of every election that will decide who our commander-in-chief will be. And Moulton himself has openly admitted that national security is an issue that “Democrats too long have ceded to Republicans.”
But again, Moulton is unlikely to be the Democratic nominee. No, that blessing (or, more likely, curse) is most likely fall to someone like Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), or someone else who shares the same glaring blemish as the other 19 candidates (Moulton excepted): Absolutely no experience with, or even the slightest appreciation for, the subject of foreign policy.
This was a well-known problem with Sanders’ 2016 campaign, and it was widely seen as one of the major strengths that Hillary Clinton, as a former secretary of state, held over the insurgent socialist senator.
But even with Hillary as the nominee in 2016 Democrats pretty much always limited their focus to Russia. And when the Democratic Party’s entire foreign policy appears to leap from the pages of a Cold War-era Tom Clancy novel, it should come as no surprise to them that voters consider them ill-equipped to tackle serious matters overseas.
Commander-in-Chief, Conqueror-in-Chief, Diplomat-in-Chief
It’s not just that Democrats are so woefully unprepared for the global stage that they are willing to tease nuclear war between two superpowers as cover for a lost election; it’s also that the alternative in 2020 could not possibly have a stronger record of effective diplomacy, smart international relations, calculated but limited military action, and a strengthening of American military might.
Despite more than two years of hobbling from Democrats and their investigations, President Donald Trump has managed to accumulate a fairly impressive resumé when it comes to foreign policy.
What even is the Democratic Party platform on foreign policy right now? All they really have is the record of the most recent Democratic president, which, suffice to say, is nearly indistinguishable from that of the Republican president who preceded him.
Obama withdrew American troops from Iraq so hastily that he had to send them right back in; he failed to withdraw troops from Afghanistan; he championed an inexplicable and pointless intervention in Libya that led to the destabilization of the country and the region, and he threatened to do the same with Syria.
Oh, yeah, and no one should forget about the rise of a little JV team called ISIS.
With such a record of failure, it’s no wonder that almost all of the candidates would rather talk about socialized medicine, sanctuary cities, or impeaching a president for the crime of being a Republican. Even those shameful distractions are less embarrassing than the recent Democratic resumé on international relations.
Under President Trump, ISIS has been eradicated from U.S. occupied areas, though given Sunday’s events in Sri Lanka, the group remains a threat. In Syria, he has carefully taken steps to keep the region in line without going full neocon; namely, through two highly successful surgical airstrikes and a withdrawal of almost all U.S. troops in the country. He has strengthened ties with Israel, in defiance both of his predecessor and Republicans who haplessly support the globalist agenda against the one and only truly Western nation in the Middle East.
Beyond Jerusalem, Trump has also greatly expanded diplomatic efforts with valuable partners such as Saudi Arabia, which has led directly to the Saudis taking the reins in policing more violent actors in their region, including the terrorist-sponsoring country of Qatar. He has also cracked down on rogue states like Iran, withdrawing from the atrocious nuclear deal that amounted to giving cash handouts to the Islamic theocracy, with a side order of an unchecked nuclear program.
His foreign policy wins stack up even higher outside the Middle East. With a delightful turning of the tables on his smug predecessor, Trump withdrew from many disastrous deals just as easily as Obama entered them, from the Paris Accord to the U.N. Migration Compact. Trump has taken swift action on such countries as Cuba and Venezuela, making it abundantly clear where the United States stands with respect to the few socialist countries still delusional enough to call themselves that. He has forced NATO partners to pay more of their fair share than they were before he took office. And Trump’s numerous wins on trade also directly tie into his broader foreign policy credentials, from his withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, as well as his successful trade negotiations with China, the EU, and Korea, among others.
Speaking of which, who can forget Trump’s historic efforts at facilitating peace on the Korean peninsula, from the incredible softening of tensions between the two nations, to the first- and second-ever summits between a sitting U.S. president and North Korean leader?
All or Nothing
The most likely scenario for the 2020 general election is a repeat of the dynamic of the 2016 Democratic primaries: One candidate will have a prominent record of being at the forefront of numerous foreign policy decisions, while the other candidate will be a clueless socialist who will either try to blame global warming for terrorism, or just deflect to empty criticism of faceless billionaires.
The major difference is that this time around the actual foreign policy expert against whom they will be compared will not be a corrupt criminal who engineered disastrous interventions, but a competent, law-abiding president who has avoided such self-righteous and Quixotic crusades to the benefit of his country.
Given that a smarter and less interventionist foreign policy was one of the three major pledges on which Trump campaigned, it would only make sense to continue emphasizing it in his re-election bid. On two of those three pledges—trade and foreign policy—Trump has all but won, and then some. As with immigration, there are still some matters of business that haven’t been adequately addressed—namely, finally ending the War in Afghanistan—but these are battles that, like finishing the Wall, were always likely to stretch into a second term due to their sheer size, and the stubborn opposition from internal actors. With that said, Trump’s accomplishments in these areas look even more impressive.
But Trump should hammer away at foreign policy not only in order to highlight his own laundry list of victories, but also to further highlight the Democrats’ lack of action in this field—which, if a Democrat were somehow elected, would turn into anti-action.
After all, it stands to reason that since Democrats are hell-bent on being the anti-Trump party and nothing else, a hypothetical President Harris (shudder) or President Sanders would seek to undo everything that President Trump did, even overseas.
Trump should ask in the debates whether this would mean they advocate a return to the same hostilities with North Korea that dictated much of the past 70 years of U.S. foreign policy in Asia? A reversal of all of his successful trade negotiations? Re-entering the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris Accord, and the “Cuban Thaw”? Increased over-intervention in the Middle East and more prolonging of the longest quagmire in American history? Back to more subservience to the U.N. while paying the lion’s share of NATO’s budget?
There are few things that Americans value more in their commander-in-chief than someone whom they feel keeps them safe, protects American interests, and maintains America’s strong reputation on the international stage. Foreign policy has proven to be one of the major reasons why voters almost always choose to back an incumbent president, since familiarity plays a huge role in stable diplomacy and national security, even when the president’s record is still somewhat mixed.
But unlike Bush or Obama, Trump has a nearly flawless record in foreign policy. Perhaps that is why Democrats insist on talking solely about domestic affairs. They know that foreign affairs is a battleground on which they would lose. All the more reason for Trump and his administration to make sure that it stays central in our national conversation going forward.
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