Public Lectures > 2016 Presidential Election and the Future of U.S. Domestic & Foreign Policy
2016 Presidential Election and the Future of U.S. Domestic & Foreign Policy
Room RY305, Ryoshin-kan, Imadegawa Campus, Doshisha university
Speaker- Mr. Elliott Abrams (Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations)
Moderator- Mr. Naoyuki Agawa (Doshisha University)
Discussant- Dr. Koji Murata (Doshisha University)
According to Mr. Abrams, the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait had a big influence on American foreign policy. After the Gulf War, the U.S. government continued to take a deep interest in the Middle East in a way that it had never done before, and the U.S. military continued to station troops there. In contrast, Obama advocated policies to withdraw troops, and in 2008, he assumed the office of president. Subsequently, policies focusing on Asia were taken up, but their main aim was to reduce America’s overseas commitments and redefine America’s role.
Stephen Sestanovich of the Council on Foreign Relations says that America’s foreign policy always swings back and forth like a pendulum between involvement and non-involvement, but in my opinion, the pendulum has now swung to the extreme completely. Military spending that had continued to be reduced under the Obama administration will probably increase under the next president. In a recent public opinion poll, citizen support for increased military spending rose in a way that had not been seen since 9/11, and in reality an unbending approach toward IS in the Middle East has already started. The lesson that needs to be learned here is that American leadership is of course necessary, and both Trump and Clinton are aware of that. There is the threat of Islamic terrorism, and as long as it is aimed at America, even if America tries to weaken its involvement in the world, it will not be possible. Regarding economic leadership, Trump attacks globalization and trade treaties as having robbed jobs from America, but he is mistaken; automatization and modernization were what stole the jobs. However, it is certainly the case that there are vanquished and the vulnerable people in a globalized world, and there is also the fact that his remarks have been taken to be more extreme than they really are.
According to recent public opinion polls, many Americans support ensuring America’s status as the only military superpower, and think that America ought to be the world’s largest economic power. As for whether America can maintain that position, I think that America is far and away in a more advantageous position than other countries. America attracts one million immigrants per year, the largest number in the world, many of whom are talented and intelligent young people from countries such as India and China. They bring vitality and creativity to the economy, and bring in significant intellectual, scientific, and financial assets. Furthermore, immigrants affect demographic changes and the birth rate. In contrast with other developed countries, America’s population is predicted to grow.
There is the opinion that China, which is emerging as a powerful country, will replace America, but China’s population is aging and will decrease in the future. China also has 650 million people living in poor areas whose GDP per capita is 12% of their American counterparts. Factors such as a drastic rise in government debt relative to GDP, a sudden increase in the debt of state-owned enterprises, corruption, severe air and water pollution, and the disparity of wealth will develop into political and social problems, and may cause upheaval. In comparison, America is the largest destination for foreign investment, and its military spending substantially exceeds that of other countries. It is also a part of the world’s alliance system. In recent years, it has even made a comeback as a major producer of principal energy sources like oil and natural gas.
One reason that Sanders and Trump gathered support during the election campaign was, in my opinion, that economic growth had been sluggish since 2008. Both groups feel that Washington politicians had distanced themselves from the will of the people and that they were not pursuing the interests of average Americans, who are angry about economic problems. Another reason has to do with political correctness. Many Americans feel that traditional attitudes and culture are being attacked and prohibited by political correctness, and that anger led to support for Trump. Dissatisfaction with elitism is another important aspect of economic and cultural problems. The leaders of both parties should pay close attention to this warning, and make efforts to regain trust.
There have been many mistakes in America over the past few decades, and it is impossible to guarantee that there will be no mistakes in the future. Nevertheless, America will continue to be an economically and militarily strong nation, as well as a powerful ally that has participated in a profound way on the global stage. Mr. Abrams concluded his talk by stating that America will continue to defend the international order that has allowed us to flourish thus far.
After the lecture, Mr. Agawa was welcomed as moderator, and Dr. Murata as discussant, and they held a discussion followed by a question and answer session with the audience.
Postdoctral Fellow, CISMOR
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Tha Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP)
Doshisha Center for Civil Dipolomacy (DCCD)
Center for Interdisciplinary of Monotheistic Religions (CISMOR) of Doshisha Universtiy
American Jewish Committee (AJC)