Luke Warner is the co-Director of Communications for King’s Politics. He is a third year history student at King’s with an interest in elections, international relations, and the topic of social policy in political debate.
As a preface, it must be reaffirmed that a Trump victory would be disastrous and Hillary Clinton desperately has to be elected. Not only is the man a vicious misogynist whose statements range from the comically nonsensical to the downright racist, he is also deeply unpredictable. There is no telling where the line between publicity stunt and dangerous demagogue is drawn in this campaign, and he regardless has unleashed a whirlwind of horrific bigotry legitimised by his use of racial stereotyping and sexist slurs. Trump is not a man you want with access to the nuclear codes and, while this is hardly an original view, it should be pointed out as a precondition to any critique of his only serious contender, Clinton.
But the election of Clinton would throw up a series of sobering foreign policy considerations that reflect some of the worst of US hawkishness. Amidst the saga of the US presidential race, between never-ending controversial statements streaming from the Trump camp, Clinton has avoided adequate scrutiny of her foreign policy. Her stance on Russia, intervention in the Middle East, and NATO throw in the air the erring on the side of caution by Obama’s administration that has largely kept a lid on geopolitical conflicts since 2008.
It goes without saying that the United States has a complicated relationship with the rest of the world; as Team America: World Police (2004) notoriously lampooned a worryingly long time ago for those of us old enough to remember its opening, it is a country uncertain of its own position in relation to issues of international security and the balance of power. Clinton was one of the senators to vote for the 2003 Iraq invasion (for which she has since apologised). She has been implicated in the 2009 Honduran coup d’état against the democratic representative of the country (for which she has since flip-flopped on accepting responsibility). She referred to Vladimir Putin’s Russia as America’s “adversary” in the second presidential debate, routinising a dangerous pattern of rhetoric that has widened the cleft between West and East to a worse extent than any point since the days of Gorbachev. In short, Clinton is not afraid to use the heavy hand of US hard and soft power to shape developments abroad for the country’s benefit.
This comes in a time of mounting tension in a world of growing polarisation between Moscow and Washington D.C. Although Obama sought with varying degrees of success to compromise with Putin, several points of conflict have opened up across the globe on this matter. The long-term dispute over NATO in the Baltics echo an era where spheres of influence were drawn by great power diplomats, provoking crises that ended at best in negotiated conference settlements and at worst in the First World War. Moreover, Ukraine has been another flashpoint wherein US support for the Kyiv government has done little to mediate ethnic Ukrainian-Russian divides.* In Syria, the US support for rebels has paved the avenue for confrontation with the Kremlin over Assad’s role in the future situation of the Middle East.
This, worryingly, typifies what can only be seen as a half-hearted, cautious attitude compared to Clinton. Her calls for action have gone over and above his position on many of these issues: two examples are her support for the sending of ground troops to fight ISIS and further extending the bombing campaign in Syria. She is also a dogged supporter of NATO and openly considers Putin a “bully” who should be stood up to. Regardless of one’s opinion on the morality and sense of such actions and statements, it cannot be overlooked that a Clinton victory would move America’s international position into one of even greater uncertainty. Whereas a Trump presidency would plainly be a catastrophe for both human decency and the dignity of the people of USA, Clinton is far from a perfect candidate. As the centenary of the 1918 Armistice approaches, we must remember that the world’s international situation is more worrying and divided than at any point for the past two decades. It is this kind of instability that arguably caused many of the great tragedies of the twentieth century, and we also ought not forget that the characteristic feature of the pre-1914 age was the belief that large-scale war was a distant non-issue.
By all means vote for Clinton to keep Trump out, but note that her victory could signal the initiation of a major new period in international relations.
*That is not to say Putin is not responsible for aggravating the situation either, or that he should not be called out on his behaviour. This is merely a reflection of the fact that US actions as a response to those of the Kremlin have done little to cool simmering emotions.