Republican or Democrat: does it matter for US foreign policy?

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First there was the US Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida where Clint Eastwood’s now infamous stint of speaking to an empty chair with an imaginative Barack Obama arguably drew more attention than the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, himself. Then came the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina where, to be honest, it seems they may have been confused as to whom the next Democratic presidential nominee was, as Bill Clinton almost stole the show with his speech. There were definitely many Facebook chats and statuses reading “if only he [Clinton] could run again” and the like.

The run-up to the US elections and the elections themselves seem to garner much more attention than any other elections around the world. There is no denying that as a superpower the presence and actions of the United States of America are important in the global arena. But does it really matter whether we’re dealing with a Republican or Democratic led United States? Leaving aside the domestic consequences, which are of course decisive to everyday Americans within the country, and our personal inclination to side with either Republicans or Democrats, will a Republican victory really affect any of us living outside the US?

Dr. Tony Lang Jr. at the Department of International Relations in St. Andrews said, “The United States policies around the world don’t actually change that rapidly no matter who gets elected whether it is a Republican or Democratic.”

“For instance the Republican President George W. Bush launched the ‘War on Terror’ which manifested itself as a real war with troops in Afghanistan and troops in Iraq. And then the Obama administration certainly changed that quite a bit by pulling troops out of Iraq and then slowly pulling them out of Afghanistan. However, in a different sense the Obama administration is still waging the war using predator drones to kill people in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Although pointing out that a Republican victory could alter US relations with Israel, Iran and China, Dr. Lang believed little would change with regards to Europe. “The thing the Obama administration has been pushing for is for Europe to resolve the economic crisis facing the EU, not wanting to push it in any particular direction, but saying you’ve got to figure this out. I think Romney as a business person would probably take a very similar approach as someone who knows finance.”

Dr. Lang assigns Mitt Romney’s Olympic upset to Romney lacking a background in international affairs, as well as advisers telling him what to do. “If he got elected I doubt very highly that he would make the same mistake twice,” Dr. Lang said. “I think people still associate Romney with Bush and the Republican agenda. But I think he’s a slightly different Republican to Bush himself. There will be some nuances there.”

Although there is a tendency to box Republicans and war together, and Democrats and aid together, Dr. Lang stressed that this as a huge misconception of the two parties historically. Democratic Presidents such as Roosevelt was involved in WWII, Harry S. Truman ramped up the Cold War, John F. Kennedy aggressively used special forces around the world, Lyndon Johnson waged war in Vietnam, while it was Republican President Richard Nixon who ended the Vietnam war.

“I doubt if Romney is elected that he’ll start waging war around the world. He comes from a more businessman perspective, which means there might possibly be less aid.”

Dr. Lang concluded, “Americans you should vote, and for those who aren’t American I think it is important that you don’t get too wrapped up in American politics because your politics matter just as much, so make sure you vote in your own elections.”


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