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I expect that you, like most Americans, are beginning to ponder who you’re going to vote for in the upcoming presidential election. If this is the case, then you might also be causally conversing about or considering the factors most important to your decision. Let me draw your attention to one of the most significant aspects of presidency, foreign policy.

For a President to be successful in foreign policy it is fairly likely that they will need to have foreign policy experience. When you hear the words foreign policy your mind might initially jump to the conflict in Ukraine and the threats from ISIS. The less considered aspect of foreign policy is foreign aid. If a president does not have a good deal of foreign policy experience, as we saw with President Barrack Obama, it is likely that this president may neglect foreign aid and focus only on military conflicts. This is a problem because foreign aid is integral to the United States’ economics and national security.

Foreign aid has been neglected in foreign policy and viewed as “charity” rather than as strategy for a long time. During the Obama administration this neglect grew. According to USAID, the United States’ aid organization, has had about a 16 percent drop in funding since 2009.

Before Obama was elected many concerns were raised, as described by an article in Time magazine, about Obama’s lack of experience in the foreign policy arena. The article stated that perhaps his international experience would prove to be enough.

It appears that this was not the case.

“Obama’s critics see a president adrift, lacking firm convictions or a strategy for dealing with the world,” says an article by Elias Groll on Others such as Dr. Colluci on U.S. News and World Report even go as far as to describe Obama’s administration as a “foreign policy vacuum.” While perhaps this is a little extreme, it is fair to say that Obama did in fact have little experience in foreign policy and that is reflected in his actions abroad as a president.

Obama has focused too much on military conflicts and strategy, and has allowed aid funding to decline significantly. Perhaps if he had had more experience he would have learned an important lesson before becoming president: that the global security that he has been working toward could be better sought through stabilizing countries economically and through building infrastructure.

Foreign aid can both spread democracy, as has been the United States’ goal since the Cold War, and fight terrorism. Perhaps Washington should return to foreign aid as a strategy, rather than continuing to use the military to maintain its sphere of influence.

The Marshall Plan could arguably be listed as one of the United States’ greatest foreign policy successes. This move gave the United States the influence it sought, stabilized countries after World War II, and spread democracy.

In addition, while poverty does not necessarily cause terrorism, reducing global poverty will reduce the human resources of terrorist organizations. Not only that, but reducing global poverty will also prevent at-risk populations from being recruited by these organizations in the future.

The next President should be someone who has had enough experience to realize the importance of foreign aid for these reasons. The president should have had enough military and aid experience to know the value of each, and enough foreign policy experience to know that the military is not the most vital part of our national security.

Even if this president does not know the importance of aid to United States’ foreign policy, I hope that at the very least they will realize that increasing U.S. foreign aid will provide a new job market for United States’ citizens.

– Clare Holtzman

Sources: The Borgen Project, Clingendael, Foreign Policy 1, Foreign Policy 2, Time, U.S. News & World Report