From the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition: What We Heard at the Democratic Party Debates

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    Ven Suresh

    THE GLOBAL GAB: What we heard at the #Demdebates

    IN AND OUT. Foreign policy was certainly in the mix on Wednesday and Thursday evening — but some key topics were left on the table. Here’s what made the cut (and what didn’t) on the debate stage this go-around:

    What was IN: Central America, the importance of alliances, China, climate change, Iran, Afghanistan and nuclear proliferation

    What was OUT: Syria, Russia, North Korea, the refugee crisis, famine, Ebola, Venezuela, Africa and much more
    TOP TAKEAWAYS. While not every topic was raised, nor every candidate was asked – the debates provided a glimpse at Commander in Chief tryouts, with an opportunity for the Democratic field to present their vision of America’s role in the world. Here are our top foreign policy takeaways:

    #1 FOREIGN POLICY MATTERS: Foreign policy did not take a back seat. Candidates on both nights were eager to share their visions for AmeGrica’s role in the world.

    Moderator Chuck Todd asked a global quick-fire round to all candidates: America’s greatest geopolitical threat on night #1; the country the candidate would prioritize for a “relationship reset” on night #2.

    Moderators Rachel Maddow and Lester Holt chimed in with questions on Afghanistan, China and Iraq.

    And from the audience: “Does the United States have a responsibility to protect in the case of genocide or crimes against humanity? Do we have a responsibility to intervene to protect people threatened by their governments even when atrocities do not affect American core interests?”
    #2 MARSHALL PLAN IN CENTRAL AMERICA: There was clear agreement among all the candidates about the need to invest in the root causes that are driving migration from Central American countries, and even a call for a “Marshall Plan” for the region. A few highlights:

    BIDEN: “The first thing I would do is surge millions of dollars worth of help to the region immediately…I’m the guy who got a bi-partisan agreement…to spend $740 million to deal with the problem and that was to go to the root cause of why people are leaving in the first place.”

    BOOKER: “We need to make sure that we address the issues …By making major investments in the Northern Triangle…We cannot surrender our values and think we will get border security.”

    CASTRO: “We go to the root cause of the issue. We need a Marshall Plan for Honduras, and Guatemala, and El Salvador so that people can find safety and opportunity at home instead of coming to the United States to seek it.”

    O’ROURKE: “Invest in solutions in Central America. Work with regional stakeholders so there is no reason to make that 2,000 mile journey.”

    SANDERS: “We’ve got to look at the root causes… What we have to do on day one is invite the presidents and leadership of Mexico and Central America together. This is a hemispheric problem that we have to address.”
    #3 ALLIANCE CONSENSUS: There was an impressive commitment to America’s engagement in the world and the importance of alliances, including NATO and the UN.

    BIDEN: “We cannot go it alone in terms of dealing with terrorism.”

    O’ROURKE: “[We have the responsibility to intervene to prevent genocide], but that action should always be taken with allies, and partners, and friends. When the United States presents a united front, we have a much better chance of achieving our foreign policy aims…As President, I will make sure we live our values in our foreign policy. I will ensure that we strengthen our alliances and partnerships and friendships and meet any challenges together.”
    #4 ONE FUN THING: Concern for vacancies at the State Department even came up!

    RYAN: “We must be engaged in this. We must have our State Department engaged, we must have our military engaged to the extent they need to be. If the United States isn’t engaged, the Taliban will grow and they will have bigger, bolder terrorist acts.”

    FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL. Foreign policy comes up on the campaign trail, even though it is not a major issue yet. So far, 5 candidates have made major foreign policy speeches on the trail – Buttigieg, Delaney, Hickenlooper, Sanders, and Warren, and 3 candidates have penned substantial foreign policy articles – Biden, Sanders, and Warren. Here is what we a hearing when it comes to the importance of development, diplomacy and democracy from the campaign:

    BIDEN: “What we do beyond our borders matters here at home more than it ever has. At just over 1 percent of our federal budget, American investment in [foreign aid] is one of the best bargains for American taxpayers.”

    BOOKER: “Cutting so deeply into the State Department budget is a dangerous idea that undermines American diplomacy and risks more global conflict.”

    BUTTIGIEG: “To shape this young century to our advantage we must renew our national security architecture – our military certainly – but also our intelligence, communications, diplomatic and development institutions.”

    CASTRO: “I’ve called for the equivalent of a 21st century Marshall Plan based on mutual respect and working together with these countries and with Mexico, so people can find that safety and opportunity there and 144,000 people don’t have to come to this Southern border to try to find it here.”

    DELANEY: “Withdrawing foreign aid will make conditions in Central America worse, ultimately destabilizing the region and multiplying the number of people fleeing those countries – creating larger caravans in the future.”

    GILLIBRAND: “This country has always stood as a beacon of light and hope for the world. We’ve always led the world on humanitarian disasters, on setting the stage for democracy, on doing the right thing, standing by our allies.”

    HARRIS: “A robust diplomatic corps and principled engagement throughout the world are necessary prerequisites to a strong, progressive foreign policy that keeps Americans safe at home and promotes our values abroad.”

    HICKENLOOPER: “Diplomacy is crucial. Decades of American leadership and diplomacy have created a safer and more prosperous world.”

    KLOBUCHAR: “Foreign aid is critical to helping address refugee crises, preventing radicalization and promoting stability around the world.”

    MOULTON: “While serving as an officer in the Marine Corps, I also witnessed the importance of foreign aid. In Iraq, international development aid unquestionably saved the lives of American troops by giving us an important tool to build support and aid Iraqi allies.”

    O’ROURKE: “If we invest in solutions in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras then fewer people have to flee those countries and come to our border at the United States-Mexico border.”

    SANDERS: “We need a foreign policy which does everything humanly possible to solve international conflict through diplomacy not war… Diplomacy is crucial… We will marshal all our powers to protect our people and our interests abroad. Diplomacy. Alliances. Military. Intelligence. Cyber. Climate. Trade. Democracy. Human rights. All of it.”

    SWALWELL: “I support foreign aid to make sure we fight cartels…and help spur economic opportunity to people can make the best for themselves in the countries where they were born.”

    WARREN: “We need a foreign policy that leverages all our resources, not just our military might. Every senior military official I have spoken with has emphasized how indispensable their State Department and foreign aid counterparts are to their mission. In addition to funding and supporting our troops, we must support the non-military aspects of our foreign policy. Diplomacy is an essential part of advancing U.S. interests around the world and reducing the likelihood of conflict.”
    BREAKING: WARREN ON 21st CENTURY DIPLOMACY: After little airtime on foreign policy on the debate stage, Senator Warren just today released a plan to revitalize U.S. diplomacy, calling for doubling the size of the peace corps and the foreign service and saying that “our State Department is too small….Too often, our underinvestment in diplomacy and development causes our leaders to default to military action, instead of treating it as a last resort.”

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