Foreign Policy

The president represents the United States by meeting and working with other world leaders, therefore must have a clear plan on how best to achieve the United States’ international objectives. This plan is referred to as foreign policy and the proposed foreign policy agendas for the presidential candidates should be heavily considered, as voters make their selections. All the candidates in this election have proposed separate, diverse foreign policy goals and have all weighed in on a variety of foreign policy issues, ranging from the Syrian refugee crisis to the China’s influence over North Korea. This article will address the candidate’s stances on some of the important foreign policy issues. First are the positions of Democratic Candidate, Secretary Hillary Clinton and Republican Candidate, Donald Trump, followed by Libertarian Candidate, Governor Gary Johnson and Green Party Candidate, Dr. Jill Stein.


NSA Surveillance & Drone Usage: 

CLINTON: Considers this surveillance to be unlawful, and believes that it has damaging effects on relations with allies. However, she does approve the use of drones on non-allied countries in order to gather information and prevent future acts of terror.

TRUMP: Thinks that the NSA should continue doing whatever is necessary to prevent terrorism, including spying on U.S. allies, and supports the continued use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists.

JOHNSON: Believes that the NSA should be abolished entirely, and also that the United States should stop using drones to collect intelligence on other countries and assassinate suspected terrorists.

STEIN: Agrees with Clinton on NSA surveillance, but still believes drone usage is unlawful on any country, regardless of whether they are allies or not.


NATO & United Nations:

CLINTON: Thinks NATO should be used to strengthen our global power and is determined to regain status as the leading world power.

TRUMP: Wants the U.S. to completely leave the United Nations, and says the U.S. should not defend other NATO countries that spend less then 2% of their GDP on their military.

JOHNSON: Wants the U.S. to stay in the United Nations, and thinks that the NATO countries should defend each other, regardless of how much they allocate to military spending.

STEIN: Strongly believes the United States should withdraw from NATO. Also believes that America must remain the world leader, but clarifies leading rather than dominating, which she describes as the current U.S. approach on foreign policy.


Military Spending & Foreign Aid:

CLINTON: Has been satisfied with the current spending of military and foreign aid and doesn’t plan to draw back any. She thinks that maintaining presence with our allies is important and to withdraw completely would create a vacuum that would allow simmering conflicts to grow.

TRUMP: Wants to lower foreign aid given by the U.S., and military spending as a whole. How he intends to do this is unclear. However, he also thinks that any foreign country housing a U.S. military base (like Germany, Japan, South Korea, etc.) should pay the United States for its presence.

JOHNSON: Wants to end all foreign and military aid from the U.S., and limit U.S. engagement in international conflicts as a whole.

STEIN: Wants to decrease military spending by 50% and close the majority of foreign military bases that she believes have been bankrupting the nation. She also wants to stop all foreign aid to countries with human rights abuses, which she believes includes Saudi Arabia and Israel.


Cuban Relations:

CLINTON: Supported President Obama’s travel and embargo lift on Cuba. Claims she had urged President Obama to make the decision.

TRUMP: Was in favor of ending the Cuban Embargo, but changed his mind in September, 2016 due to his belief that the U.S. got a “bad deal.”

JOHNSON: Is in favor of ending the Cuban Embargo, and all other embargoes so that U.S. companies can do business with whoever they’d like.

 STEIN: Strongly believes that ending the embargo was long overdue, and that America should not interfere with Cuba’s national process. She also states that the president should encourage human rights in Cuba, but still need to deal with the human rights violations that the United States has been committing in Guantanamo Bay.


China & North Korea:

CLINTON: Would not use military action in place of diplomacy, though does say that North Korea must have “no doubt” the U.S. will use military action to defend itself and threats to its allies. She also has been strongly against China for their questionable human rights, and as president wants to hold China accountable to the rules (trade, human rights, climate change, etc.).

TRUMP: Believes that China secretly controls North Korea, and could therefore, “make that guy [Kim Jon Un] disappear.” He also believes that the best way to deal with North Korea is to let South Korea and Japan develop their own nuclear weapons.

JOHNSON: Doubts whether North Korea even has long-range nuclear missiles, and doesn’t think they even have the capability to make them whatsoever.

STEIN: Thinks that the United States should stop isolating China, firmly believes that the United States is not the world police, and thinks countries need to have their own role in the global stage, without intimidation.


Middle Eastern Involvement:

CLINTON: Firmly believes that the nation has a commitment to our alliance with Israel, and takes credit for the initial negotiations with Iran. Despite her support as Secretary of State in Iraq and Libya, which both heed heavy criticisms by the current president, her position for the future tends to air on the side of caution.

TRUMP: Has become a strong supporter of Israel, but thinks the U.S. should remain neutral in negotiations between Israel and Palestine. He also dislikes the Iran Nuclear Deal, claiming that he can renegotiate a much better alternative.

JOHNSON: Agrees with Trump, but thinks the U.S. should spend more time focusing on domestic issues than foreign affairs like Israel and Palestine. He was also originally skeptical of the Iran Nuclear Deal, but has since said he is “optimistic” after seeing it in action.

STEIN: Strongly opposed to monetarily supporting and defending Israel due to their constant war crimes and human rights violations, but also supports President Obama’s deal with Iran to eliminate their nuclear capabilities.


Syrian Refugee Crisis & ISIS:

CLINTON: Believes that the U.S. should open its own doors for Syrian refugees. She thinks Americans “can’t allow themselves” to be intimidated by terrorists, and it’s important for her to re-establish the role as humanitarians. She believes it must be the U.S. who leads the fight against ISIS. Her proposal includes escalating air strikes, supporting Arab and Kurdish ground forces and the push for safe zones in Syria.

TRUMP: Has proposed a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the U.S., which would include the vast majority of Syrian refugees. He also has no intention of accepting any political refugees until he’s certain the government can ensure they are not a threat to the U.S. He has said that Russia’s involvement in the Middle East regarding ISIS is good for the region, and thinks the U.S. needs to do more to combat ISIS.

JOHNSON: Thinks the U.S. should take its fair share of refugees, but only after they have passed an intense background check to prevent accepting ISIS members posing as refugees. He also doesn’t think the U.S. should send the military to fight ISIS unless they attack U.S. soil.

STEIN: Would take in all Syrian refugees if possible, because she believes it’s the responsibility of the country to fix the crisis in which it created. She also believes that the United States’ consistent “meddling” in the Middle East intensifies terrorism and opposes possible future involvement. She does not think the U.S. should prevent Russian air strikes on Syria, nor provide aide to Saudi Arabia, and she does not think the U.S. should declare war on terrorism.



The Democratic and Green Party Candidates on Foreign Policy

There is no argument that Hillary Clinton’s experience as former Secretary of State leaves her plan more predictable than that of the other candidates. However, in the case of electing our next president, does experience equal success? Clinton believes that her experience in foreign policy has prepared her for day one of the presidency. As president, she would be determined to regain status as the leading world power and she accepts the current framework of American engagement.  Although Stein also recognizes the importance of America staying in the lead, she condemns that premise being the focus of foreign Policy. In fact, she would like to reframe American foreign policy based off of international law, human rights and diplomacy. While the two candidates’ stances ultimately want the same thing for the nation, their agendas in achieving that seem to notably differ.




The Republican and Libertarian Party Candidates on Foreign Policy

Mr. Trump and Governor Johnson clearly have different viewpoints on how to handle foreign policy and international conflicts. Trump’s been criticized for his seeming misunderstanding of foreign policy, and Johnson has been criticized for his policies often coming off as isolationist. Neither candidate’s foreign policy platforms are without their blind spots, but each brings up important points on a multitude of issues. Both also agree on lowering the amount the U.S. spends on foreign aid and military spending, but it is important to note that they have vastly different approaches on how to do that.


NOTE: Information for this article is sourced from the candidates’ positions and platforms for foreign policy, and all other relevant issues, based on their profiles,, and their official candidate websites.