News / USA

Republican Gains in Midterm Elections Could Alter US Foreign Policy

US soldiers of the 82nd Airborne aim at the entrance to a cave outside the village of Malakay, Afghanistan (FILE).
US soldiers of the 82nd Airborne aim at the entrance to a cave outside the village of Malakay, Afghanistan (FILE).

Experts say the state of the U.S. economy is sure to dominate the November midterm elections - not foreign policy concerns such as the build up of U.S. forces fighting alongside NATO in Afghanistan.  But if Republicans make gains on November 2, political observers think the new political lineup could have have an impact on the conduct of U.S. foreign policy over the next two years.  

Battlefield conditions permitting, President Obama has said he would like to begin drawing down U.S. forces in Afghanistan by the middle of next year.

"The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground and our support for Afghanistan will endure," Mr. Obama said. "But make no mistake.  This transition will begin, because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people's."

Afghanistan remains the Obama administration's top foreign policy challenge, and even though U.S. casualties have increased in recent months, domestic support for the war effort remains stable, says Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown.

"Interestingly, the groups that are most supportive of the president's war policy are Republicans and conservatives, who are less likely to support anything else on his agenda."

If Republicans gain seats in the November elections, as analysts expect, that could solidify support for the Afghan war in the short term.  But it could also create the potential for conflict in Congress if Democrats press for the beginning of a withdrawal next year.

Republicans are emphasizing economic issues in their campaign platform, especially tax and spending cuts. But their agenda does include a pledge to remain tough on terrorism and to press for a more comprehensive missile defense system, according to Republican Congressman Mac Thornberry of Texas.

"We are committed to standing by our friends and our interests," Thornberry said. "We will restore full funding for missile defense and push for tough enforcement of sanctions against Iran."

Republican gains in the House and Senate could strengthen the hand of conservative critics who charge that the president has not been tough enough when it comes to denying Iran a nuclear weapons potential. One such critic is Henry Nau from the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

"I doubt seriously if sanctions are going to bring them around on stopping their nuclear program," says Nau. "That is, of course, Obama's view of the way the world works and they are going to continue to make trouble."

But in general the debate over foreign policy is not likely to matter much during this year's election campaign, says Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution.

"Interesting from my point of view is that there has been relatively little discussion of foreign policy in the midterm elections.  Issues like Iraq, even Afghanistan, Iran, the Middle East, are talked about at the edges but are in no way central to the campaign itself."

If Republicans do gain seats in November or win back a majority in one or both chambers of Congress, they could be in a position to at least try to steer U.S. foreign policy in a more conservative direction.  For example, conservatives could press the Obama administration to be more assertive in dealing with Russia and China.

Activists from the grassroots Tea Party movement are pushing the Republican Party to the right.  That could have an impact when President Obama deals with a new Congress early next year, says the Council on Foreign Relations' Charles Kupchan.

"The centrist wing in the Republican Party is not likely to gain because a lot of the winners of the Republicans are going to be more Tea Party members who are also not centrist liberal internationalists," says Kupchan.  "They tend, I think, to hail to what you might call the neo-isolationist wing of the Republican Party."

Republican gains in the Senate could also complicate efforts to ratify a new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia.  The START-ONE treaty expired in December of last year and the Obama administration wants a vote in the Senate on the successor treaty soon.  But observers say that Republican gains in the Senate could embolden conservative critics of the treaty who argue that its ratification would weaken U.S. defenses, a notion that President Obama and Senate Democrats reject.  

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid