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Georges Ugeux

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Six Foreign Policy Questions That Electors Should Ask the Presidential Candidates

Posted: 08/27/2012 4:17 pm

I know: foreign policy does not matter in a presidential election. But what about money? What if we realized that one-third of our indebtedness (the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone did cost $4 trillion or 26 percent of the U.S. public debt) comes from war and other military expenses that escape the campaign? Does it not matter? Why should the candidates not tell us how many wars they intend to carry or avoid? With a record indebtedness, however, we should be realistic. The United States has no more money for international wars and conflicts.

Will the U.S. go to a war decided by religious Israeli Jews?

The State of Israel that the U.S. rightly supports is changing hands, from a democratic state to a religious extremist controlled state that does not respect human rights, does not pay taxes, does not do military service and enjoys other privileges. It is also the main obstacle to the peace process of the Palestinian problem. As the risks of a confrontation between Israel and Iran are sharply increasing no clear position has been taken: would at least one candidate clearly indicate to Israel that the United States will only support an attack on Iran if and when its own intelligence will have true evidence that Iran has reached a stage where it is possible? Is the noise of an attack on Iran prior to the election even remotely possible? Will a candidate tell us the truth about that risk?

Will the U.S. foreign policy produce a credible policy towards Islam?

Islam is a religion: as such, U.S. foreign policy should have nothing to do with religious matters. However, the divisions of Islam resulted in the creation of several terrorist organizations inspired by Islam. We cannot win our anti-terrorist fight against al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas, without the support of moderate Islamic movements. For this we must have a foreign policy that is sufficiently discriminating and does not spread islamophobia throughout the country. We are a country that welcomes religious freedom and diversity. The Syrian and Libyan wars are religious wars, even though we are fighting them in the name of democracy. What does a more Islamic Middle East mean for our foreign policy? How do we intend to work with them rather than demonize them?

Will the U.S. attempt to build a true partnership with China?

Blaming China for the U.S. economic foes and for the outsourcing of jobs has become conventional wisdom on both sides of the aisle. Adding insult to injury, the U.S. attacks regularly China for the value of its currency. China is the only country that potentially could challenge the United States economically: friend or foe? Neither, but definitely the country cannot be blamed for a balance of payment surplus fed by the manufacturing of goods produced by U.S. companies. The attacks on the value of the Yuan by the U.S. Treasury are close to unethical: we owe China (down 130 billion from a year ago!), and we want them to revalue their currency so that what we will pay them as interest and principal loses value. It is not acceptable for a debtor to request this from a creditor.

Will the U.S. consider its European partnership to be strategic?

Europe has gone through a lot lately. The current sovereign financial crisis is the EU's fault. However, ignoring the impact on Europe of the fault, negligence and inaction of the U.S. financial authorities in the handling of the subprime crisis and the over-leverage of the U.S. financial institutions is not credible. Rather than multiplying critical comments, while recognizing that the U.S. economy is suffering from the European crisis, it is important that the U.S. foreign policy does not neglect the importance of the Atlantic alliance, not only for military reasons, but also for economic and cultural reasons. We are in this together. Why did the U.S. refuse to support the IMF effort to assist Europe?

Will global considerations influence U.S. energy and environment policies?

Foreign policy is not just a matter for diplomats and Minister of Foreign Affairs. International relations include one of the most sensitive and complex risks for the future of mankind and the earth. Don't the presidential candidates have something to say about that subject? Is that subject left to the major oil companies? Will it be treated as a pure domestic issue? The State Department analyzed the foreign policy implications of such policies. Are some of our wars fought to give U.S. oil companies a competitive advantage? The United States suffers from a deficit of credibility in the climate change debate: we are the largest waster of energy. We act irresponsibly, and have no plan to decrease our dependence from oil: the development of shale gas, clean coal, wind or solar energy is not as much a foreign policy matter as it is a domestic one.

Will the U.S. persist in illegally applying financial regulation outside of its borders?

One of the key elements of tax and financial regulation and laws is rooted into the international private law principles: it is called territoriality of law. Using its financial and political muscle, the U.S. has recently increased its outreach around the world. Forcing foreign countries to change their tax law? Suing foreign companies on actions that happened outside of the borders? Imposing U.S. regulation to foreign financial institutions outside of their U.S. activities is slowly becoming one of the most nerve-racking tensions between the United States and the rest of the world. The U.S. should tax its companies (starting with GE) before reaching out to tax activities outside of its borders. Does the next administration intend to continue this tug of war?

The United States cannot follow a single-minded foreign policy

Among the illusions entertained by the United States is the coherence of its foreign policy. In an ideal world, the U.S. would like the world to be following the U.S. model, and therefore to look at negotiations in a U.S. segmented way. The rest of the world does not work that way. This is partly due to their own organization, but it is also due to the fact that the reality and values of our foreign partners does not match ours. The Chinese look at the left and the right of their balance sheet with the U.S. The Middle East considers a peaceful solution of the Israeli-Palestinian war to be part of its willingness to address other regional issues. Serious environmental negotiations require the United States to include reduction of threats to the earth's climate. Foreign policy and domestic policy are interwoven. Ignoring the impact of critical United States policies on the rest of the world harms the moral standing of the country. Will this be addressed?

 

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