America in the Middle East: What do Our Candidates Think?

The United States is in a long time running conflict with the countries of the Middle East. Between 2003 and the present, American troops and the Coalition have suffered over 8,000 deaths and 50,000 injuries in Iran and Iraq alone (CNN). So many citizens are unaware of the conflicts in the Middle East that continue on and even why the U.S. is there in the first place. When at the age of 18 young people are allowed to vote, it is vital that they know exactly who and what they are voting for; the president’s decisions are the immediate reactions for American security.

Living in a safe United States, concerned with school and work, it is easy to become disconnected when in fact, the intrusion of America into the Middle East began over sixty years ago, at least in Iran, with the replacement of Prime Minister Mossadeq (BBC). Attempting to give a solution for the current conflicts in the Middle East, such as the war on terrorism (ISIS) or the Iranian Nuclear Deal, would take influence and a vast knowledge of the situation and U.S. foreign policy. Instead, the plans far likely to be put in motion are those offered by the Republican and Democratic nominees: Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton. 

Tensions in the Middle East have been rising for years. Present foreign relations date back to the mid twentieth century, when U.S. interest in Middle Eastern oil flared. As of now, the United States’s military has been occupying bases in the Middle East for over 35 years (Vine). Until the rise in terrorism, U.S. concern seemed to be aiding and arming rebellious groups in the toppling of Middle Eastern dictatorships. Now, the current threats are dominated by terrorism from ISIS. 

One of the relatively recent shifts in foreign policy occurred in 1980:

“Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”
—Jimmy Carter, state of the union address, Jan. 23, 1980

Since then, the United States has “engaged in aggressive military action in at least thirteen countries in the Greater Middle East […] in that time, every American president has invaded, occupied, bombed or gone to war in at least one country in the region” (Vine).The United States wanted to secure oil and economic interests there. The situation in the Middle East is extremely complicated with those oil interests, diplomatic interests, and concern for American safety taking into consideration.

At the age of 18, citizens are allowed to vote. What does this mean? Every person will make a decision. In general, that will be Republican or Democrat. What will these two parties offer as solutions to the current crisis in the Middle East?

Donald J. Trump:

According to the excerpts in the video above from his speech on Foreign Policy this last April, Trump is interested in a “new foreign policy” with the “interests of America and American people first at its foundation.” In the Middle East, he wants to “defeat terrorist and promote regional stability” and “know who the enemy is and not help them.” He wants peace, and will only use the military when “absolutely necessary” and with “a plan of victory.” Many assume that his blunt nature will cause even more conflicts internationally, but Trump says that he “understands that diplomacy is mandatory” (Ukraine). He strongly favors funding and expanding the military and national security. And despite the recent Republican debates over “carpet bombing” in the Iraqi oil fields,  Trump’s policy “strongly favors non interventionist foreign policy” even if he will likely choose to use force against ISIS (Inside Gov).

At the Center for the National Interest’s gathering, Trump made clear in his speech that “America First” will be the basis of his time in office (Trump). His major goals include “containing the spread of radical Islam,” even if it means using force, and working with allies and countries afflicted by Islam in the region. This may include the immigration policy. Another goal is to “rebuild our military and our economy” to strengthen America. In that position, America will continue to “play the role of peacemaker” (Trump).

While Trump states what his goals are, the specific details of how and when are still a bit vague. A voter who chooses Republican this next election must be aware that he will do what is necessary for American interests. He strongly supports a strong military and wants peace and prosperity (Trump). Because ISIS is a threat to that, he will likely support at minimum the containment, if not destruction, of ISIS.

Hillary Clinton:

Hillary clearly states during this speech that:

“Our goal is not to deter or contain ISIS, our goal is to defeat and destroy ISIS” (Roberts).                                                           —Hillary Clinton

She views the conflicts in the Middle East as a “world-wide fight lead by America”. Clinton wants to defeat ISIS, disrupt enemy infrastructure, and harden defense against external home fights. Increase efforts. Deny ISIS. Begin a “more effective air campaign” and  “increase intelligence assets” to infiltrate ISIS to eliminate control.  She believes that, unlike Obama’s stance on not fully using the military, it is not possible to avoid in this situation.

The analysis of Hillary Clinton’s stance on defense and international issues says that she disagrees with military expansion and increased funding and does not want to avoid involvement with foreign countries (Inside Gov). Although her stance has shifted over time, it is counter intuitive to want to use forces against ISIS and yet spend less on military and more on diplomacy.

According to her campaign website, Hillary wants to 1) “Keep America safe and secure by defending our core values and leading with principle” 2) “Defeat ISIS and global terrorism and the ideologies that drive it” and 3) “Strengthen our alliances and nurture new relationships to tackle shared challenges such as climate change, cyber threats, and highly contagious diseases” (Clinton). Some of her long term goals are “never allowing Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon” and “defeating ISIS” (Clinton). She supports strong sanctions on the nuclear deal. Pertaining to ISIS, Hillary wants to avoid a ground war, “empower our partners to defeat terrorism” and continue to build Iraqi military and government (Clinton). That last bit is interesting. For so long have American weapons been given to forces opposing our enemies in the Middle East that you have to wonder is totally effective.

Every citizen will choose their own position. Those solutions offered by Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton, as the two leading candidates for the presidency, are the two courses of action that are potentially to be put in motion. While they each have similar goals such as defeating ISIS, there are nuances in issues such as military funding that can help narrow down a position. No matter what, each vote has weight in the elections. The future president will be the head determining the nation’s course of action. An educated populace choosing to vote is the first step in changing the United State’s foreign policy.   

Works Cited:

“Casualties: Afghanistan and Iraq.” CNN. 10 May 2016. Web. 9 May 2016.

“Donald Trump 2016 Presidential Candidate.”Inside Gov. c. 2106. Graphiq, Inc. Web. 8 May 2016.

“Donald J. Trump Foreign Policy Speech.” Trump Make America Great Again. Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. 27 April, 2016. Web. 9 May 2016.

“Hillary Clinton 2016 Presidential Candidate.” Inside Gov. c. 2016. Graphiq, Inc. Web. 8 May 2016.

“National Security.” Hillaryclinton.com. c. 2016 Hillary for America. Web. 8 May 2016.

Roberts, Dan, Gambino, Lauren. “Hillary Clinton calls for more ground troops as part of hawkish Isis strategy.” The Guardian. 19 November 2015. Web. 8 May 2016.

“US-Iran relations: A brief guide” BBC News. Middle East. 24 November 2014. Web. 10 April 2016.

Vine, David. “Tomgram: David Vine, A  Permanent Infrastructure for Permanent War.” TomDispatch.com. The National Institute. c 2014. Web. 10 April 2016.

Media Cited:

al-Gharbi, Musa.”Why America Lacks Credibility in the Middle East.” Wikimedia Commons. Common Dreams. 10 Mar. 2015. Web. 9 May 2016.

Ukraine Today. “Hillary Clinton calls for increased airstrikes on ISIS.” Online video clip. YouTube. 19 Nov. 2015. Web. 9 May 2016.

Wall Street Journal. “Donald Trump Outlines Foreign Policy Plan.” Online video clip. YouTube. 28 April 2016. Web. 9 May 2016.

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