Foreign Policy

What role should America play in the world? Some suggest the United States should continue to play an active role in world affairs, while others say our country needs to stop “policing the world.” With so many arguments for both sides, how do we come to a consensus?

A country’s foreign policies are the strategies it employs to secure its self interest in dealing with foreign nations. American foreign policy centers around the question of how involved the United States should be in world affairs, and how it should respond to crises around the world.

Our country’s foreign policy began with George Washington’s policy of non-interventionism. Washington believed that it would be unwise to involve ourselves in the affairs of other countries where our interests aren’t affected. Thomas Jefferson, America’s third president, even declared in his inaugural address that the United States should avoid all entangling alliances.

American foreign policy drastically shifted both as the country entered World War II, and as the world became more intertwined through commerce. After the WWII, the United States became the dominant economic power in the world—and as a result, the champion of democracy in the face of Communism. World War II shook the world, and both it and the Cold War resulted in a shift in American viewpoints on the role of the United States in world affairs. The attacks on the World Trade Center sparked what became known as the War on Terrorism under then-President George Bush, and this trend continued with both the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan, and other conflicts. Supporters of increased American involvement overseas have often cited the need to fight the enemies of the United States overseas—and not on American soil. Opponents, however, contend that the country’s increased military involvement actually makes us less safe both physically and financially—and, less free.

Foreign policy is a big issue this election. In light of recent terrorist attacks, international crises (like ISIS) and globalization, what should the role of the United States be in world affairs? How aggressively should America pursue its national interests abroad, and how should it present itself to foreign nations?

Non-Interventionism

Point

The United States should adhere to Washington’s advice of non-interventionism. When the United States involves itself in international agreements that don’t align with its national interest, it puts itself at risk of entering into entangling alliances. Decisions should be made that are in line with our national interest first and foremost, and involving ourselves in the affairs of other countries only puts us at risk. We should peacefully trade with all countries, but should heed Washington’s advice of non-interventionism.

Counter

Non-Interventionism doesn't believe that the United States should have a larger role in global affairs, shaping larger trade agreements for other countries, signing treaties, and addressing needs for humanitarian work.

Neo-Conservatism

Point

The world is a dangerous place without the United States in charge, especially because of the War on Terrorism. It’s important that the United States play an active role in waging the war against Al Qaeda and ISIS; it should command respect from its enemies through strong use of force, and should promote democracy around the world by promoting nation building. If the United States doesn’t take an active role in world affairs, then Russia and China certainly will—and in light of their human rights track records, that’s not a world we should want to live in.

Counter

Neo-Conservatism doesn't see the unintended consequences of their actions across the globe. Their meddling in trade agreements, treaties, and upheaval of foreign dictators can foster an environment that creates more terrorism.

Neo-Liberalism

Point

The United States should lead through a broad coalition of other countries around the world. American interests often align with other countries, and we should take the fight to ISIS and Al Qaeda by gaining support of the international community through the United Nations. While use of force is sometimes necessary, global dialogue and negotiation should be the starting point for all actions.

Counter

Neo-Liberalism doesn't see the unintended consequences of their actions across the globe. While trying to be aggressive through military force, their message can be weakened while seeking approval from the United Nations or other global coalitions.

Containment

Point

The United States should seek to lessen its involvement around the world by asking what conflicts are truly in its national interest. In terms of the War on Terrorism, the United States should seek to contain terrorist organizations as much as possible—truly destroying them is an impossible goal. The United States should peacefully trade and talk with all countries, and should seriously consider what actions require and don’t require the use of force before engaging in military operations. When war is deemed to be necessary, the United States should use overwhelming military force to win—but then should come home.

Counter

Containment doesn't believe that the United States should be global leaders. Containment is sometimes viewed as being too cautious and timid in situations of what is in the nation's best interest. There is also a question as to whether under a "containment" view if the War on Terrorism is really a war to begin with.