David Carlson: Ready or not, here comes the election


A year from now, our country will be neck-deep in another presidential race.

The months between now and then will go by fast, and before candidates distract us by turning the election into a personality contest, we should use these months to identify the issues that candidates should be required to address.

Of course, my list might not be your list, but I bet we will agree on some of the key issues.

In this column, let’s consider foreign policy issues.

Vying for top spot in terms of foreign policy challenges are the war in Ukraine and the ambitions of China.

We already see that the Republican candidates differ over the level of support our country should give to the ongoing war in Ukraine, while on the Democratic side, Biden will beat the drum for standing by Ukraine as long as the war lasts.

Consequently, Ukraine poses serious questions for American voters.

Is there a limit to the financial and military support our nation should give to Ukraine? What is the endgame in Ukraine that America and our allies should be pursuing?

China presents a foreign policy challenge as fraught with difficulties as Ukraine.

Most observers believe China’s leadership is intent on moving against Taiwan, to absorb Taiwan as it did Hong Kong.

Knowledgeable observers also believe that China’s leadership is watching how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be resolved.

Put another way, if democratic countries reduce their support for Ukraine, China will likely interpret that as a green light to invade Taiwan.

China, then, also poses serious questions for American voters.

What should be America’s response if China threatens Taiwan’s independence?

After decades of war and bloodshed in Iraq and Afghanistan, how willing are we to commit troops on the ground in Taiwan?

There are other foreign policy challenges that candidates should be required to address.

The Wagner group that has been so vicious in the invasion of Ukraine is also destabilizing and arming key African countries.

That we don’t think much about this threat is fine with Russia and the Wagner group, but at some point, America and our European and African allies will have to respond.

North Korea is another country supported militarily by Russia and China. And who knows what Kim Jong Un will do next?

The conflict in Syria, the war that seems to have no end, is another arena where Russia is active in its support of an obvious war criminal, Bashar al-Assad.

If you are adding up the “score” of foreign policy challenges, you’ll note that Russia keeps popping up.

Putin is playing the long game, intent on spreading Russia’s influence in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere.

Does our country have a long game-plan for these areas?

Yes, it’s easy to say we want to promote the spread of democracy globally, but what steps are we taking to make that goal more than a vague hope?

Finally, there are sure to be foreign policy crises arising between 2024 and 2028 that aren’t currently on our radar screen.

We live in a volatile and unpredictable world politically, and that should influence the candidate we elect.

The foreign policy challenges we’ve mentioned demand that the president elected in 2024 be someone with foreign policy credentials, someone who is respected by our allies, someone who is taken seriously by our adversaries, and someone who makes clear to both our allies and adversaries what our country will stand for — and what we will not stand for.

Democracy asks far more of us as Americans than merely showing up to vote.

As America is still the most influential democracy in the world, we as citizens have a responsibility placed upon us by history.

That responsibility is to be certain that the person whom we elect is best prepared to tackle the immense challenges facing not just us but the world.

It’s time to remember that politics is not a game show.

David Carlson is a professor emeritus of philosophy and religion. Send comments to [email protected].

No posts to display