The number-one election issue this season is undoubtedly the economy. Other issues like health care, immigration and education follow closely behind. One issue, however, is consistently put on the backburner: foreign policy. Below are five reasons foreign policy is important to American youth (and everyone else).
1. Globalization: There are many who disagree about whether the effects of globalization are positive or negative, but no one can disagree with this: Globalization is here, and world economies are intertwined like never before. What happens overseas will affect us here at home. The current crisis in Europe, which is seen by many as getting worse, has the potential the send us into another recession. The possibility of Israel attacking Iran has oil speculators pushing up prices, which would jump drastically if that possibility became a reality. How America handles the interconnection of the world economy affects our domestic one.
2. Our generation will live with the consequences: Foreign policy decisions often have long-lasting consequences. Even more often the people making those decisions won't live long enough to experience the full effects of them. We, however, will. We will have to pay in the future for the decisions being made today, in treasure and in blood. We are already paying today for the actions of generations before us. The costs of the war in Iraq are all too known to many, and national debt and interest payments are rapidly increasing. The consequences for these decisions are also hard to reverse. You can't repeal an invasion.
3. We never know when the next crisis will be: Foreign policy crises can happen at any time. Pre-September 11, the thought of such an event taking place on American soil was inconceivable. President George W. Bush had almost no foreign policy experience prior to being elected. Because of this, he had to rely a great deal on his advisors, a very small group of them, to help him respond to one of the most significant events in American and world history. Today, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan also both do not have any considerable foreign policy experience. Romney's recent gaffe-filled "foreign policy" trip does little to reassure. Currently there are several potential crises in the world, most notably, Israel potentially attacking Iran. The president will have to deal with these unforeseen crises in a complex world, and will need the experience to do so.
4. Sometimes it comes down to the man behind the desk: President Kennedy was involved in one of these very unforeseen crises in October of 1962. The military had no plans on how to handle Soviet missiles in Cuba, as the possibility was thought of as highly unlikely. The Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously recommended a full-scale invasion. Many members of congress also pushed for a more hardened response. Kennedy held steadfast and led the country through the closest instance we have come to nuclear war. A president's advisors are some of the greatest tools at his disposal. They give him multiple viewpoints and options. But sometimes, those options aren't the right ones to take. Whoever is behind that desk will at times have to make decisions against those who he himself has chosen to advise him -- members of congress, and the military -- to do what is best for the country. If Kennedy had relied on his advisors too much, we might have seen a nuclear war.
5. Our unique place in history: Our generation has a unique place in history. Maybe not that of "defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger" Kennedy described at his inauguration, but a special one nonetheless. All around the world, countries such as China, India and Brazil are rising and are all potential challenges to American influence -- influence that is seen by many as rapidly declining. This is not absolute. We can invest in new technologies, build up our infrastructure and education, and compete and coordinate with all these countries, or we can choose a different path. The choice between paths will not rely solely, but rather mostly, on our president. Wherever we go, whatever we do, our foreign policy is going to matter. And this election, the man we choose to lead our foreign policy is going to matter that much more.