We are all foreign policy voters

Adding an international dimension to your voting calculus is a good idea. Even if the candidates are not giving you much to go on. When a campaign devolves to a few soundbites and slogans, it’s tempting to wait out the election for a better candidate.

Those of us who consider ourselves foreign policy or national security voters may feel especially neglected this year. We’ve been let down so far by both candidates. Donald Trump’s simplistic “ban all Muslims” and Hillary Clinton’s flip flop on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal without much explanation leaves us with seemingly little of substance. Likewise, national security issues of migration and refugees and links to terrorism should not be reduced to one liners.

It’s also easy for voters to fool ourselves into thinking that foreign policy doesn’t matter. But most domestic issues are intimately tied to foreign policy. The economy, environment, and gender equality all flow directly into foreign policy. In my town, San Antonio, nicknamed “Military City,” a change in the military posture, buildup or drawdown, directly impacts city finances, housing, consumer spending, and jobs.

International trade deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, will have an affect on environmental standards. As global environmental standards rise, especially if the U.S. sets the agenda, corporations will do more to protect the air and water to stay in compliance. With San Antonio’s growing manufacturing base, including international companies like Toyota, considering the candidates positions on international trade deals is essential.

On gender, some of Hillary Clinton’s most impassioned and genuine interactions took place overseas promoting the welfare of women and girls. Her record as Secretary of State speaks clearly on that issue. Donald Trump’s hardline on immigration and his views on women in the workplace present voters with a pretty stark choice.

If you haven’t traveled abroad yet yourself, now would be a great time to get a passport and go. There’s plenty of time before the general election. Get a map and close your eyes and land your finger on a country. Go there. Or go to the country of your heritage. Or the country where the dollar is high and flights are cheap. Just go.

I guarantee it will change your outlook and you’ll appreciate how lucky we are to have the choice and the raucous debate that we so enjoy. And if you get into trouble, the U.S. Embassy is always there to help you out. And, don’t be too tough on politicians who go on international trips. The only way your state’s brand gets out into the world is to have people out there showing the flag.

All this is to say that for those who don’t like either candidate and are planning to sit the election out, you are doing yourself and your country a disservice. You don’t have to like the pilot of the plane you are flying in either. But you do want to hope that he or she has the experience to get you where you are going. And in this case, we are the ones hiring the pilot. So quit your whining. Vote!

About Thomas Armbruster 24 Articles
Thomas Armbruster is a columnist for The GeoStrategists. He is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Marshall Islands. In his long career as an American diplomat, Thomas Armbruster served as the Consul General at the U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok, Russia, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan, Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Political Affairs Officer and Nuclear Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia; and Vice Consul at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, he was a reporter for the CBS affiliate KGMB-TV in Hawaii. Mr. Armbruster holds a B.A. from McDaniel College, an M.A. from St. Mary’s University, and an M.S. from the Naval War College.
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