In what is shaping up to be an election season heavily concentrated on foreign policy matters, Lindsey Graham, a Republican Senator from South Carolina, announced his candidacy for president in the upcoming 2016 election. What makes the announcement for his run for commander-in-chief newsworthy is his astounding arrogance: “I have more experience with our national security than any other candidate in the race,” he stated. He then brought it to a personal level and professed, “That includes you, Hillary,” in reference to Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. Overall, Mr. Graham hopes that his significant foreign affairs experience will give him a leg up in the run for presidency.
In what is shaping up to be an election season heavily concentrated on foreign policy matters, Lindsey Graham, a Republican Senator from South Carolina, announced his candidacy for president in the upcoming 2016 election. He promised to bring national security to the center as he believes “the world is falling apart.” The crux of his campaign is “security through strength,” promising a stronger plan of attack to threats such as Islamic State and other radicals he deems are “running wild.” What makes the announcement for his run for commander-in-chief newsworthy is his astounding arrogance: “I have more experience with our national security than any other candidate in the race,” he stated. He then brought it to a personal level and professed, “That includes you, Hillary,” in reference to Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. Overall, Mr. Graham hopes that his significant foreign affairs experience will give him a leg up in the run for presidency.
It is undeniable that Senator Graham has some experience with international issues. Mr. Graham is a defense and foreign policy hawk and one of the leading proponents within Congress for a “muscular U.S. foreign policy.” He is the chairman of three military, foreign policy and terrorism Senate subcommittees and has supported dozens of foreign policy bills in Congress. Mr. Graham did recently complete a brief tour of duty in Afghanistan as he is a colonel in the Air Force Reserve and met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has also reportedly traveled to more than 20 countries for government business. These examples, however, provide flimsy evidence of his self-declared vast experience in international affairs.
Perhaps the foreign policy experience he is referring to is mostly opinion and rhetoric-based. He is a vocal critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, calling for increased military spending and claiming the United States should abandon its nuclear talks with Iran. He blames President Obama for welcoming foreign threats due to weak policies. He advocates for U.S. troops to be sent to Iraq to fight ISIS, a policy that President Obama has been adamant about not pursuing, and promoted sending military aid to Ukraine. His foreign policy positions are almost always in conflict with those of President Obama.
While Senator Graham clearly has strong opinions on foreign policy matters and has some experience in international affairs, his suggestion that he has a larger track record in this field than anyone running for president, including Hillary Clinton, is almost laughable. Mrs. Clinton served four years as the 67th Secretary of State, the nation’s top diplomat. She travelled to 112 countries and logged more nearly 1,000,000 miles of travel. No opponent “can match her credentials” as tenure as Secretary of State and her impressive and effective track record in foreign policy will only help her as she runs for president.
Hillary Clinton faced formidable challenges upon taking on the position such as Iran and the faltering negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. She essentially restored the United States’ global image and leadership, a consequence of President George W. Bush’s proclivity for unilateralism. Former assistant secretary of state, Michael Posner, lauded her efforts as chief diplomat: “To me, the thing she did most effectively was to lead the administration’s efforts to restore U.S. leadership. And that continues to be an important part of her legacy.” She staunchly advocated for issues such as women’s’ rights, economic development, and the environment. In fact, women’s’ rights became one of the cornerstones of her foreign policy. She showed an eagerness to learn and excel in understanding complex foreign policy issues.
One of Mrs. Clinton’s fundamental foreign policy strategies was employing “smart power,” a concept coined by Mrs. Clinton to revitalize the role of both diplomacy and development in U.S. foreign policy. In the Middle East and South Asia, she assisted President Obama in realizing two policy priorities: winding down the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in December 2011 and she facilitated the removal of troops from Afghanistan almost 2 years after she left office. She was instrumental in launching negotiations between the United States and Iran, efforts that have led to a possible and almost unimaginable deal regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Mrs. Clinton handled the Arab Spring masterfully, seeking to promote values such as democracy promotion and rule of law while taking a pragmatic approach that realized the United States still needed productive relationships with its traditional allies in the Middle East. She was behind the United States’ participation in the NATO-led intervention in Libya in 2011; having to convince many in the administration is was the right course of action. In Asia, Mrs. Clinton also successfully implemented the “pivot” to Asia as a means to counter China and reassure traditional U.S. allies in the region and supported free trade deals with both Asian and European allies. One of her greatest foreign policy successes was her handling of former international pariah, Burma, and her meeting with democratic advocate, Aung San Su Kyi. While not a comprehensive list, Mrs. Clinton repeatedly displayed a mastery of foreign policy issues and her experience can only help her in the presidential race.
Senator Lindsey Graham, while successfully demonstrating he has strong opinions about international relations matters and the blemishes on the Obama administration’s record, has inflated the depth of his foreign policy experience and does not have much to stand on if his entire campaign relies on his foreign policy and military records to distinguish his campaign in the presidential race. And to announce in such a cavalier and overly self-assured manner that he has more to knowledge than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is asinine. It is easy to have opinions, as Senator Graham has illustrated, but the challenge lies in compiling the evidence to back it up. One must have demonstrable experience, a department where Senator Graham is sorely lacking. Thus, rhetoric, especially in the world of international affairs, is not enough.