On the Issues: Democratic Candidates Address Foreign Policy

July 12, 2019 By John Glenn

As the 2020 race heats up, it’s an open question how foreign policy will play in the presidential election. The economy and healthcare were the were the top issues in an April 2019 Economist/YouGov poll, but 85% of Americans also said foreign policy is important to them.

Among the Democratic candidates, only six of the 24 Democratic presidential contenders have given speeches focused on foreign policy. They are: former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor of South Bend Pete Buttigieg, former Maryland Congressman John Delaney, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Senator Elizabeth Warren.

What have they been saying about America’s role in the world? See below – and watch this space for updates from the campaign trail.

On America’s Global Leadership:

Biden: “The Biden foreign policy agenda will put America back at the head of the table working with our allies and our partners to mobilize global action on global threats, especially those unique to our country.”
Buttigieg: “The world needs America. But not just any America. Not an America that has reduced itself to just one more player, scraping its way through an amoral worldwide scrum for narrow advantage. It has to be America at our best: the America that possessed the forward-looking vision to do things like confront Nazism and rebuild Europe and even invent the Internet inside a research arm of our Defense Department. It has to be an America that knows how to make better the everyday life of its citizens and of people around the world, knowing how much one has to do with the other.”
Delaney: “America will lead, not alienate. America will move forward, not inward. America will protect the homeland and defend its people and interests at home and abroad. This is an America that acts responsibly – yes responsibly is the keyword – in leading not only our country but also the global community.”
Hickenlooper: “I will restore the traditions of global leadership and bipartisan consensus on core national security imperatives that allowed us to win two world wars, prevail in the Cold War, and make historic contributions to living conditions worldwide.”
Sanders: “The goal is not for the United States to dominate the world. Nor, on the other hand, is our goal to withdraw from the international community and shirk our responsibilities under the banner of ’America First.’ Our goal should be global engagement based on partnership, rather than dominance. This is better for our security, better for global stability, and better for facilitating the international cooperation necessary to meet shared challenges.”
Warren: “There’s a story we tell as Americans, about how we built an international order – one based on democracy, human rights, and improving economic standards of living for everyone. It wasn’t perfect – we weren’t perfect – but our foreign policy benefited a lot of people around the world. It’s a good story, with long roots. But in recent decades, something changed. Beginning in the 1980’s, Washington’s focus shifted from policies that benefit everyone to policies that benefit a handful of elites, both here at home and around the world.”

On Diplomacy and Development:

Biden: “I will make it my mission to restore American leadership, to elevate diplomacy as a principle tool of our foreign policy.”
Buttigieg: “I will make sure America’s diplomatic, military, and intelligence capabilities remain the strongest and most respected in the world.”
Delaney: “My vision makes a commitment to diplomacy as the first resort. Our diplomatic corps can be a powerful force in the world when backed by the world’s strongest military.”
Hickenlooper: “Diplomacy is crucial. Decades of American leadership and diplomacy have created a safer and more prosperous world – whether in post-war Europe, Northern Ireland, the Balkans or the Middle East. Multilateral institutions like the UN help keep the peace.”
Sanders: “Development aid is not charity, it advances our national security. It’s worth noting that the U.S. military is a stalwart supporter of non-defense diplomacy and development aid. Starving diplomacy and aid now will result in greater defense needs later on. U.S. foreign aid should be accompanied by stronger emphasis on helping people gain their political and civil rights to hold oppressive governments accountable to the people.”
Warren: “America should also be reinvesting in diplomacy. Foreign policy should not be run exclusively by the Pentagon.”

On Alliances:

Biden: “As president, I will do more than just restore the historic partnerships. I’ll lead an effort to reimagine them, to better meet the challenges we’re grappling with today, in the next 20 or 30 years.”
Buttigieg: “Our relationships, bilateral relationships, multilateral alliances, international institutions are the space in which our policy plays out. Each must be strengthened if we wish to promote American values and promote American interests.”
Delaney: “For decades, the U.S. has worked to build an unmatched portfolio of allies – no other country in the world has anything like it. Our allies are foundational to our ability to operate around the world militarily, diplomatically and economically. They were built not solely out of friendship, but for our own self -interest. Today, based on irresponsible behavior by U.S. leaders, our allies are losing faith in our relationship and our actions are empowering our adversaries.”
Hickenlooper: “Full security requires that we have strong alliances and partnerships abroad, and that we lead on the world stage.”
Sanders: “In my view, the United States must seek partnerships not just between governments, but between peoples. A sensible and effective foreign policy recognizes that our safety and welfare is bound up with the safety and welfare of others around the world.”
Warren: “Alliances are about shared principles, like our shared commitment to human rights, but they are also about safety in numbers. Not even the strongest nation should have to solve everything on its own.”

On Climate Change:

Biden: “The United States must lead the world to take on the existential threat we all face: climate change. If we don’t get this right, not much else will matter. I’ll put us on track to achieve a clean energy economy with net zero emissions by 2050. And equally important, because the United States makes up 15% of global emissions, I’ll leverage our economic and our moral authority to put the world on a more urgent course by rejoining the Paris Climate Accord.”
Buttigieg: “I want to emphasize the potential of climate diplomacy, and the world we might build when climate stands alongside democracy and human rights as a central goal and a source of legitimacy for nations in global affairs. Rejoining Paris is just the beginning.”
Delaney: “I will resume U.S. participation in the Paris Climate Agreement, and I pledge that my Administration will harness American ingenuity and international leadership to save our planet from irreversible effects of global warming.”
Hickenlooper: “I will rejoin the Paris Climate Accords on my first day in office; and then exceed their targets and summon this generation of Americans to an all-out fight against climate change.”
Sanders: “The threat of climate change is a very clear example of where American leadership can make a difference. Europe can’t do it alone, China can’t do it alone, and the United States can’t do it alone. This is a crisis that calls out for strong international cooperation if we are to leave our children and grandchildren a planet that is healthy and habitable.”
Warren: “To make progress on climate change and protect our higher standards here in the US, we should leverage foreign countries’ desire for access to U.S. markets as an opportunity to insist on meaningful environmental protections.”

On China:

Biden: “China is playing the long game, extending its global reach, investing in the technology of the future… We need to get tough with China, if China has its way it’s going to keep moving and robbing U.S. firms of our technology, intellectual property, and forcing American companies to give it away in order to do business in China. And the most effective way – and we need to change – is to build a united front of friends and partners to challenge China’s abusive behavior, even as we seek to deepen cooperation on issues where our interests are converged like climate change and preventing nuclear proliferation.”
Buttigieg: “China is investing more than $1 Trillion in its Belt and Road initiative, expanding its political and economic influence by building infrastructure throughout the Pacific, Europe, Africa, and the Americas, as they happily fill a vacuum left by American withdrawal.”
Delaney: “We have to change our approach to dealing with China’s emergence as a global power. We need to initiate a serious discussion with China about the points of friction that have a very real potential to provoke conflict between our two countries. We must explore whether our differences can be negotiated successfully, or mitigated so as to avoid an unthinkable escalation between two giants.”
Hickenlooper: “China represents a generational challenge for American national security; it is a formidable economic and military competitor – militarizing disputed islands and waging predatory trade practices – but it is also a country we must engage across complex, diverse issues.”
Sanders: “Competitors like China and Russia have exploited our forever wars to expand their economic and political influence around the world. In China, an inner circle led by President Xi Jinping has steadily consolidated power, clamping down on domestic political freedom while aggressively promoting its version of authoritarian capitalism abroad.”
Warren: “China is on the rise, using its economic might to bludgeon its way onto the world stage and offering a model in which economic gains legitimize oppression.”

On the Global Economy:

Biden: “I will equip our people to succeed in the new global economy, with a foreign policy for the middle class. To win the competition of the future, we have to double down on sharpening our innovative edge, uniting economic might of our friends and other abusive practices to take them on. We know that economic security is national security – but there are a lot of communities around the country that are hurting because we’ve neglected the basics. Our trade policy has to start at home, by strengthening our greatest asset – the middle class. For when it does well, everyone does well.”
Buttigieg: “If gross inequality and declining social mobility persist in our country, our economic and political system will become less and less respected on the world stage. Which is why perhaps the single best thing we can do to roll back authoritarianism abroad is to model the strength of inclusive democratic capitalism right here in the United States.”
Delaney: “My vision embraces free trade and leverages trade agreements to support U.S. jobs, bolster U.S. exports and to compete in the global economy. Every meeting I have with a world leader will be staffed by my chief diplomat and my chief economic advisor, as I see diplomacy and the economy as inextricably linked.”
Hickenlooper: “By reviving our leadership, we are not only making our country safer, but we’re making our country more prosperous.”
Sanders: “To effectively combat the forces of global oligarchy and authoritarianism, we need an international movement that mobilizes behind a vision of shared prosperity, security and dignity for all people, and that addresses the massive global inequality that exists, not only in wealth but in political power.”
Warren: “The globalization of trade has opened up opportunity and lifted billions out of poverty around the world. Giant corporations have made money hand over fist. But our trade and economic policies have not delivered the same kind of benefits for America’s middle class.”