Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Foreign policy does matter in US presidential re-election

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
June 07, 2012

The long-accepted notion that "it's the economy stupid" is the yardstick in any successful presidential re-election bid, needs to be seriously looked at again.

The salient truism is that a weak national economy juxtaposed against the backdrop of a strong foreign policy position seems to have been the formula for a successful US presidential re-election bid.

By way of elucidation, Woodrow Wilson, 28th US president, was a university professor. President Wilson not only tried to keep America out of WW1 but he also had to deal with the detrimental national economic consequences arising there from. However, he got re-elected in 1916 championing the slogan: "He kept us out of war." President Wilson then went on to ask Congress to declare war against Germany in order "to make the world safe for democracy." President Woodrow Wilson had the successful formula for re-election.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd US President, presided over an America besieged under the crippling economic ravages of the Great Depression. This was a global economic meltdown of massive proportions on the United States economy.

Yet, despite this national economic debacle, President Roosevelt stood strong and resolute in the arena of foreign policy after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour. The United States declared war against Germany and Japan. Indeed, with the mixture of a weal national economy and a strong/potent military foreign policy, Roosevelt was able to serve as US President from 4 March 1933-12 April 1945.

Conversely, as America's 39th president, Jimmy Carter was faced with the two-fold dilemma of the 1979 Iran-American hostage crisis and national economic stagflation. In addition, rising gas prices exacerbated public confidence in his presidential leadership.

Ergo, when Jimmy Carter attempted to run for re-election in 1980, he was defeated by Ronald Reagan. President Carter was accused of being "too soft" on communism. President Carter's downfall was the 'discovery' of 3,000 Soviet Union combat troops in Cuba in October 1979. At the height of the Cold War, Cuba was viewed as an ally/client state of communist Soviet Union.

In other words, then,President Jimmy Carter was not re-elected because of a weak national economy; on the contrary, he was not re-elected specifically because of his weak foreign policy position. He did not possess the successful formula of a weak national economy but a strong/potent military foreign policy.

In addition, when President Ronald Reagan was re-elected in 1984, West Virginia had the nation's highest unemployment rate of 13.6 per cent, Mississippi's rate stood at 11.1 per cent and Alabama had an unemployment rate of 10.9 per cent.

Yet, notwithstanding the economics of Reaganomics and the firing of 15,000 air-traffic controllers in August 1981, President Ronald Reagan won his re-election bid specifically because he pursued a strong/potent military foreign policy. He possessed the successful formula.

Indeed, the record reveals that at the Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas, on 23 August 1984, President Ronald Reagan stated: "Since 20 January 1981, not one inch of soil hyas fallen to the Communists." Automatic response from the packed convention hall was: "Four more years!, Four more years!, Four more years!".

President Reagan's foreign policy remark was in direct reference to the United States military invasion of Grenada on 25 October 1983. And on 12 June 1987, it was President Ronald Reagan's potent military foreign policy stance that empowered him to demand then Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall".

Indeed, it was President Ronald Reagan's strong, military foreign policy actions that brought about the collapse of communism just as it was the strong, military foreign policy action of President Barack Obama that brought about the demise of Osama bin Laden, then globally feared leader of the international terrorist organization, AL Qaeda on 2 May 2011.

In the final analysis, in the current era of the continued global fight against terrorism, the United States of America needs the re-election of a strong foreign policy Democrat as President in the tradition of the Republican President Ronald Reagan. President Barack Obama fits that mode.

The United States of America does not need a weak, ineffective foreign policy Republican as President in the tradition of the Democrat President Jimmy Carter. Indeed, the stakes are way too high and irreversible for the American people.

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Pan African Studies, Kent State University.

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