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foreign policy platforms
As the United States approaches 2020, the fight amongst the democratic presidential candidates to secure the primary is heating up. The foreign policy platform of these candidates is an important consideration moving forward. Although there is still plenty of time, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have taken a significant lead. After the first round of debates, approximately 70 percent of polled voters favored one of these four candidates.

Here is what foreign policy would look like under Biden, Sanders, Warren and Harris:

Joe Biden

Joe Biden, the Vice President of Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017, has extensive experience with foreign policy, arguably the most out of any presidential candidate. His foreign policy platform focuses on foreign aid investment and diplomacy, which he believes will best achieve the goals of creating a stable global economy, promoting human rights and democracy and advancing the United States’ national security interests. During his time as Vice President, Biden helped create the Feed the Future initiative—a government-funded program to end global hunger and promote food security in order to encourage development in impoverished countries. Biden has also discussed the importance of investing foreign aid in Central America because, according to Biden, “the most significant and urgent challenges for the Western Hemisphere” relates to the poverty and violence that exists in Central America. For that reason, Biden wants to invest in Central America in order to promote security and stability. Since stability is one of Biden’s primary goals, Biden plans to host a global summit in his first year as President. His main goal for this summit would be to promote human rights and combat corruption. Ultimately, Biden’s foreign policy platform rests on the goal of bringing nations together to promote the values of democracy.

Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy goals revolve around promoting international cooperation in order to address global issues and promote universal interests. The main issue that Sanders has run on is addressing environmental issues. Sanders not only believes that the U.S. must significantly reduce its carbon emissions and transition to renewable energy, but also that the U.S. must assist the developing world in achieving environmental and economic sustainability. When discussing environmental initiatives, Sanders stated, “The United States should lead the international community in funding technology development and deployment solutions for the most vulnerable developing countries as part of any international agreement.” In addition to these environmental issues, Sanders has greatly committed to promoting the health and wellbeing of the developing world. For instance, Sanders helped write a letter to Obama in 2015 supporting the United Nations Population Fund—a multilateral fund that promotes family planning and reproductive health services in more than 150 countries. Additionally, Sanders has supported initiatives to promote safe abortions for women and girls in conflict-affected regions. He has also supported funding to combat AIDs, malaria and tuberculosis and opposed an initiative that would have reduced appropriations for foreign assistance programs. In short, Sanders’ foreign policy platform is based on the promotion of human solidarity.

Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren is running on the campaign, Diplomacy First. Warren plans to promote diplomacy by expanding the State Department, doubling the size of the foreign service and opening new diplomatic posts in under-served areas. Warren also plans to double the size of the Peace Corps in order to “[expose] young people to the world and [create] a direct employment pipeline to future government service.” Ultimately, Warren’s main foreign policy goal is to improve relationships with the rest of the world. She not only hopes to achieve this goal by increasing diplomacy but also by increasing foreign aid spending. For instance, Warren and other female senators advocated for increased humanitarian action in order to empower women and girls in Syria in 2015. That same year, Warren, like Sanders, helped draft a letter to former President Obama to promote safe abortions for women and girls in conflict-affected regions. More recently, Warren petitioned for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to address the Humanitarian Crisis occurring in Gaza and for President Trump to withhold cutting aid to Palestinian people. Overall, Warren’s motive for increasing foreign aid spending and promoting a greater role for the State Department is to reduce the United States’ reliance on military might in order to create allies with other countries and better address global concerns, such as cybersecurity and environmental issues.

Kamala Harris

Similar to Warren, Senator Kamala Harris’ foreign policy platform centers around diplomacy. Harris believes that smart diplomacy can advance the national interest and address global issues, such as terrorism, cybersecurity, nuclear weapons, environmental issues and health threats like Ebola. Before becoming a Senator, Harris was the Attorney General of California. One of the main accomplishments Harris is campaigning on is her work to help terminate human trafficking rings and dismantle transnational criminal organizations in order to increase women’s safety and prevent drugs and guns from entering the country. Through this work, Harris has also strengthened relations with Mexico. However, compared to the other three candidates, Harris does not have considerable experience with foreign policy or diplomacy that goes beyond U.S.-Mexico relations. In fact, the initiatives that she has focused on in her campaign and on her campaign website are almost entirely domestic issues. Nevertheless, Harris has stated that as President, she would prioritize promoting female empowerment and creating lasting peace throughout the world.

Although each candidate’s foreign policy platform has a slightly different focus, all four candidates advocate for improved international relations through increased diplomacy and foreign aid spending. These foreign policies are in direct opposition to President Trump’s America First initiative that would reduce foreign aid spending and limit the role of the State Department. Although this foreign policy plan may seem to promote an America First mindset in the short term, diplomacy and strong allies are ultimately what is in the country’s best interest long term.

– Ariana Howard
Photo: PBS

Humanitarian Crisis in GazaIn early July 2019, presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren told a group of activists that “she would push to end the Israeli government’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza,” according to Mike Brest of the Washington Examiner. Senator Warren’s comments stray from her record as a vocal Israeli and AIPAC supporter, but her comments are important to the 2020 democratic presidential campaign as she is one of the, if not the first, democratic candidates to mention and wish to assist the Gaza Strip. As the 2020 presidential campaign moves forward, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza deserves more attention.

The Gaza Strip Blockade

Since 2007, Israel and its chief Arab ally, Egypt, have enforced a complete air, land and water blockade of the Gaza Strip in response to the Strip’s controversial election results. In Gaza’s first major elections, Hamas, a U.S. State Department recognized terrorist organization since 1997, won control of the Strip causing Israel to immediately impose sanctions. After Hamas forced its political rivals out, Fatah, Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade of Gaza to prevent further hostile actions from the Gazan government. In the 12 years since its implementation, “more than 1,000 Palestinians have died as a result of the ongoing blockade,” according to Al Jazeera in early 2018.

According to Al Jazeera, “Gazans continue to face a desperate situation because of the blockade with water and electricity shortages as well as a lack of medicines and doctors.” The heinous conditions in Gaza have resulted in the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), an accredited independent organization, to declare the Strip “the world’s largest open-air prison” in mid-2018. The NRC also reported that “a 2012 U.N. report predicted [the Gaza Strip] would be unlivable by 2020” for the predicted population of 2.1 million Palestinian. Despite the U.N. report, the conditions have not improved in Gaza as “1.9 million people are confined [by the blockade], 84 percent require humanitarian aid, [and] 41 percent have too little food,” according to the NRC.

The United States and the Gaza Strip

Although the controversial blockade has continued for over a decade, U.S. politicians have rarely discussed the horrific conditions in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. has largely ignored the situation in Gaza, which has allowed it to perpetuate and worsen, but Senator Warren’s recent comments could point towards a possible advancement. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza deserves more attention, and some U.S. politicians could be bringing more light to the crisis.

The 2012 U.N. report on the Gaza Strip made its results very clear by stating that the Strip would be “unlivable by 2020 if nothing was done to ease the blockade.” For the situation in Gaza to improve, Israel and Egypt must end the blockade, or at the very least loosen it. The United States is one of the only nations that holds the power to bring improvement to the region due to its special relationship with Israel and Egypt.

According to USAID, the United States gives almost $370 million in aid to Egypt and nearly $3.2 billion in aid to Israel annually. America’s close and special relationship with both countries give the situation in Gaza hope. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza deserves more attention, and if more U.S. politicians speak against the horrible environment in the Gaza Strip, the additional pressure could potentially ease the blockade and improve the region. The devil is in the details when discussing the Palestinian-Isreali conflict, but improvement is possible if the humanitarian crisis in Gaza receives the attention it deserves.

– Zachery Abunemeh
Photo: Flickr

female democratic policyThe Democratic 2020 Presidential candidate race is well and truly underway. The Democratic Party recently announced that the Democratic National Convention will be held in July 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Currently, the number of declared candidacies for the Democratic Party stands at more than 200 with Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar being some of the critical players in this field. Here are brief summaries of what has defined these female democratic presidential candidates’ foreign policy agendas so far in their career, and what they have identified as key parts of their presidential campaigns.

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren has been a long time supporter of foreign aid with a platform on trade that focuses primarily on re-investing power in the American Middle Class. Subsequently, she is an advocate for anti-corruption measures and cracking down on multinational corporations that prioritize profits over workers.

Furthermore, she has expressed caution about the U.S.’ trade position with China due to the alleged human rights abuses, contending that China upholds no pretense of democracy regardless of its seemingly capitalist motives. She argues that the domestic agenda should not be considered “as separate from our foreign policy” and that creating strong alliances will help ordinary Americans. Foreign policy must be used to address humanitarian crises and boost democracies worldwide.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris’ foreign policy approach has been shaped by her career as a federal prosecutor. She has identified ending human trafficking, fighting climate change and reducing terrorism among her key foreign policy stances. She is a supporter of ‘smart diplomacy,’ which includes the cracking down on international criminal organizations.

She favors creating a multilateral approach to address global climate change and, subsequently, opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership on account of it ‘invalidating’ California’s landmark environmental laws. Although she holds a similar stance to Warren on many issues, she has does not support tariffs on China due to the impact on California’s technology industry. She has not joined her colleagues Gillibrand and Warren in condemning cuts to Palestinian; however, she did join them in condemning the funding cuts to refugee programs.

Kirsten Gillibrand

Kirsten Gillibrand is a longtime fighter for both women in developing countries and women in the U.S., which has become a key part of her presidential platform. She co-sponsored the Women, Peace and Security Act of 2013, supporting the integration of gender into U.S. Foreign Policy.

She initially co-sponsored the Anti-Israel Boycott Act but withdrew her support several months later in 2017. Similar to Warren, she has supported using U.S. trade authority to discipline nations over the use of military force and, subsequently, she opposes U.S. collaboration with Saudi Arabia due to its role in the Yemen Humanitarian Crisis.

Gillibrand’s foreign policy statements outside of gender have focused on the protection of U.S. industries against unfair competition. Specifically, she has led the fight for U.S. steel manufacturers and fought back against cheap imports that harm U.S. producers of both primary and secondary products.

Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar has identified a long list of campaign issues on foreign policy centered around advancing American National Security. She is a supporter of foreign aid and the tradition of the U.S. in providing humanitarian assistance, helping to “address refugee crises, preventing radicalization, and promoting stability around the world.”

She has supported sanctions against Iran and North Korea and voted in favor of the Anti-Israel Boycott Bill, which is against the U.N. resolution requesting that states refuse to do business with contractors that engage in business with Israel. She has specifically outlined support for strengthening trade links within North America and with Cuba as part of her foreign policy outlook with the aim of advancing regional interests and investment and strengthening the U.S. position in the global economy. She has favored maintaining a strong military presence more so than several of her female democratic contenders.

Although these candidates, the leading four female Democrats in the race, hold largely similar positions on foreign policy and global trade, there are subtle differences demonstrated by the range of issues they have vocally discussed and highlighted. They are all supporters of foreign aid and all sit largely within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. However, it is likely that as the race gets further underway, these female democratic presidential candidates’ foreign policy agendas will become more distinct.

Holly Barsham

Photo: Flickr

spending_package
The U.S. House of Representatives approved a $1 trillion government spending package on Thursday, December 11. The agreement will keep the government open into next year. With major opposition from House Democrats, the bill narrowly squeaked by on a 219-206 vote. The Senate passed a two-day funding bill after the House vote, dodging a government shutdown that would have started at midnight on the 12th.

House Democrats interrupted plans for a Thursday afternoon vote on the bill because of opposition to provisions entailing more relaxed regulations on Wall Street and with campaign finance laws. This opposition incited a rare case in which House Democrats became pitted against President Obama, who approved of the deal for its inclusion of several of his specific spending priorities. These priorities include more funds to fight Islamic State militants, help combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and distribute more Pell Grants for college students.

The clash began on Tuesday when Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) strongly opposed the bill’s weakening of a certain provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial services law that was created to protect taxpayers from risks resulting from complex financial trades by large banks. Democrats were further dissatisfied with a provision that significantly increased the funding private donors can grant to political conventions. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) insisted she was not made fully aware of the provision’s extent before the package’s initial unveiling.

After Democrats voted against advancing the bill on Thursday afternoon, House GOP leaders took the bill off the floor and the White House began trying to drudge up Democratic support for the package. President Obama and Vice President Biden began personally calling House Democrats in the final few hours before the dreaded government shutdown, encouraging them to view the bill more favorably. Meanwhile White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough went to Capitol Hill in an effort to change dubious Democrats’ minds, insisting that passing the deal would place more confidence into the economy. Democrats exiting the meeting claimed that McDonough had told them the federal government could not survive on constant short-term continuing resolutions.

Some Democrats supported the bill, arguing in favor of the fact that it does contain several democratic spending priorities. Notably, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who is the second-highest-ranking House Democrat, openly supported the package. Some Republicans, on the other hand, opposed the bill on the grounds that it would not be able to succeed in reining in the President’s order. This internal opposition meant that Republicans needed Democratic votes in order to pass the deal.

Eventually many House Democrats decided to offer up their support for the legislation, enough to ultimately ensure that it successfully passed. 57 Democrats ended up crossing the divide to vote in favor of the bill along with 162 Republicans. The deal has arisen out of weeks of negotiations between Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), and their respective party leaders.

– Shenel Ozisik

Sources: USA Today, Politico
Photo: ABC