The American Conservative asks: Which candidates are most likely to be guided by realism and restraint in foreign policy? See the grades below.
Presidents have more latitude in foreign affairs than in domestic policy, and the trend over the past two administrations has been for presidents to be more hawkish than their campaign pledges led voters to expect. George W. Bush promised a “humble foreign policy.” Instead, he gave us the Iraq War. Barack Obama was elected in part to end Bush’s wars. But he too pursued regime change, with Pyrrhic success in Libya and abortively in Syria.
These examples are alarming precedents for the next administration. The Democrats and Republicans vying for their parties’ nominations have staked out a range of positions on the wars in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, as well as on the nuclear deal with Iran and relations with Russia in light of Vladimir Putin’s aggression toward Ukraine. The different magnitudes of U.S. military spending the contenders propose also suggest something about how interventionist each will prove to be. Campaign statements are not, however, a sure guide to what anyone will do in office.
TAC has assessed the the five Republicans and two Democrats who remain in the contest and graded their policies on these issues. We award good grades for restraint and bad grades for policies suggestive of interventionism. We have considered only a few telltale foreign-policy issues, and while we believe these accurately reflect the overall character of these contenders, they are an admittedly incomplete and imperfect measure. Nevertheless, they are informative.
This report card is not a voter guide: it is a summary of these leading figures’ views on key questions of war and peace. Our purpose is to inform the widest possible readership, in a concise manner, about the state of an ongoing public debate—one that will have consequences for every American in the years after Obama leaves office.
Read The American Conservative’s breakdown of each candidate here.