The major U.S. presidential candidates have very different ideas about foreign policy.
Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump have proposed to take American foreign policy in very different directions if elected.
The two presidential candidates disagree about what U.S. policies should be toward Russia, Iran, Iraq, China and Syria.
They also offer different opinions on how to deal with Islamic State militants.
Trump has called U.S. foreign policy weak. He blames decisions made by President Barack Obama and Clinton who served as secretary of state during Obama’s first term.
Clinton has said the United States remains the nation other nations depend on to help solve the world’s toughest problems.
Trump Wants Other Nations to Pay More
Trump questions why the United States should continue to defend nations that, he says, do not pay their fair share of the costs.
“We’re losing a fortune. That’s why we’re losing -- we’re losing -- we lose on everything,” Trump said last month at the first of three presidential debates.
Clinton says Trump’s Proposals Frighten Allies
Clinton said that Trump’s statements raised concern among nations that depend on U.S. promises to help them if they are attacked.
“Words matter when you run for president,” Clinton said. “And they really matter when you are president.”
On fighting Islamic State militants, Trump has said he would order more aggressive bombing of ISIS, another name for the group. He said that President Obama and Clinton, when she was secretary of state, “unleashed ISIS” with weak policies.
Clinton has said she opposes sending American ground troops to Syria. Instead, Clinton said she would work with allies to force ISIS out of Iraq and Syria.
“Donald said he knows more about ISIS than the generals…No, he doesn't,” she said.
Trump Disagrees with his VP Candidate
Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence, said the United States should respond to Russian aggression in Syria with military force, if necessary. Trump said he disagrees.
“He and I haven't spoken, and he and I disagree," Trump said.
On Iran, Clinton praised an agreement with the Middle Eastern nation to remove important materials it would need to build a nuclear bomb. She said the agreement was possible because of sanctions she helped put in place as U.S. secretary of state.
Clinton said the Iran nuclear deal stopped Iran’s nuclear program “without firing a single shot.”
Trump said the deal is good for Iran. It released $150 billion in Iranian money frozen by the U.S. The deal also permits Iran to resume its nuclear program in 10 to 15 years, and provides the nation money to continue its support of terrorism, he said.
Relationship with Putin
There are other major differences between the two candidates.
Trump has called Russian President Vladimir Putin a strong leader. He and Putin could work together to reduce terrorism under a Trump presidency, Trump said.
Clinton calls Putin a dictator. “I know that he’s someone that you have to continually stand up to because, like many bullies, he is somebody who takes as much as he possibly can unless you do,” she said.
On immigration, Trump had called for banning all Muslim immigrants to combat the threat of terrorism. He later changed his position, saying he now supports “extreme vetting” to make sure dangerous people are not allowed into the United States.
Clinton said that Trump’s tough language about Muslims can be used by Islamic State militants to bring in new supporters. She has proposed accepting several times more refugees escaping the Syrian civil war than are currently entering the U.S.
“I will not let anyone into our country that I think poses a risk to us,” Clinton said at the second presidential debate. But she said “there are children suffering in this catastrophic war, largely, I believe, because of Russian aggression. And we need to do our part.”
Campaign Draws Attention of International Leaders
Foreign policy issues during the Trump/Clinton campaign have drawn unusual attention internationally.
French President Francois Hollande said Trump’s election “would complicate relations between Europe and the United States."
Zeid Ra-Ad Al-Hussein is the United Nations human rights rights chief. He criticized Trump’s statements about torture and Muslims, calling them “dangerous from an international point of view.”
Trump said this about waterboarding: “I like it a lot. I don't think it's tough enough."
Foreign Policy a Concern to Voters
As in recent elections, the economy remains the most important issue for most voters. But voters also seem to be paying attention to foreign affairs, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
Voters in modern U.S. history have chosen candidates with backgrounds as elected governors or senators. Those candidates, however, have not had much direct experience with foreign policy.
Henry Brands is a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin. He said American politics is usually concerned most with domestic policies, not policies toward the rest of the world.
Brands said that changes during war. But he said neither candidate has managed to gain ground against the other by saying, ‘You’re soft on terrorists.”
I’m Bruce Alpert.
Words in this Story
fortune -- n. a very large amount of money
unleash -- v. to allow or cause something to happen
sanctions -- n. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country
bully -- n. someone who frightens, hurts, or threatens smaller or weaker people
extreme vetting -- n doing extensive checks on a person’s background
poses -- v. to be or create a possible threat
catastrophic -- adj. a terrible disaster
waterboarding -- v. pouring water over someone to make them think they are drowning. The U.S. government stopped the practice in 2006 after officials determined it was torture.
domestic -- adj. relating to your own country