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Young Republicans and Foreign Policy

by Robert McMahon, Editor CFR.org
September 8, 2008

CFR.org’s Joanna Klonsky spoke with young Republicans (40 and under) who attended their party’s presidential nominating convention last week in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Here are a sampling of some foreign policy views and priorities: 

David Capiello, 40, is a Lebanese-American state senator from the 24th district of Connecticut.

The biggest concern is the war on terror. But it’s how we deal with the war on terror. It’s how we are able to, in some cases, stand firm with certain foreign nations and leaders who seem to be unwilling to negotiate with us, but also to have the flexibility to know when to step up and to negotiate. I look at Ronald Reagan, one of my political heroes, who knew when it was the right time to negotiate with the former Soviet Union and Mikhail Gorbachev, to try and make things happen, to break down those barriers, those walls. I think it’s important for our president and for our Congress to know when the time is right to step up and to negotiate.

I think Iran is one of the most pressing foreign relations issues this country is dealing with. It’s important for America to be able to stand its ground, but also try to work with our allies when it comes to sanctions in dealing with Iran. Iran used to be a very Western nation. I think there are some young people that probably want that to happen again. But we need a president and a Congress that is going to understand that, and understands how to deal with a leader like [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad.

Attorney Steve Dillard, 38, is a delegate from Macon Georgia.

I’m very concerned about the genocide that’s taking place in Darfur. I care very much about sex trafficking that’s going on and how that’s not only impacting our world culture, but also American culture, because a lot of these women are being brought over to the United States and are being abused. They’re basically slaves. I think that’s very troubling. And I think a lot of social conservatives are becoming much more concerned about things that are going on on the world stage that have to do beyond just abortion, although that’s an extremely important issue for me and other social conservatives.

Obviously a lot of our foreign policy has been geared toward trying to establish democracy in Iraq. You have Turkey, which is kind of a quasi-democracy, I guess. And so the hope is that democracy will take hold and there’s a big debate about how effective that is, whether this is simply Wilsonian foreign policy basically revisited, whether it’s imperialist or not. There are a whole lot of questions. My view is that as a superpower, with great prosperity comes great responsibility. I understand we have to be concerned about our national interest, but to me, our national interests include protecting the most vulnerable members of our international society, our world. To me, that’s why what’s going on in Darfur is so tragic. There really has been very little done. And I blame both the Clinton administration and the Bush administration for that. I don’t think nearly enough has been done. 

Carlos Obando, 28, is a Colombian-American delegate from Texas. He recently ran unsuccessfully for the Texas House of Representatives seat for District 134.

When it comes to commerce and trade, I think we need to start opening up our markets a little bit more. I know Colombia and the United States are talking about getting a free trade agreement right now, and I think it should go through. That’s only going to help us in combating some of the tension that’s occurring right now in South America with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Right now we’re dependent on a lot of their oil. We’ve got enough resources here in this country to drill and sustain ourselves in the future for at least the next 200 years. I think we need to look into that a little bit more. I think our party will do that.

More business is coming out of Brazil, more business is coming out of Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and I think that in the long run, that is something that needs to be focused on. The more we go without doing business and commerce with Latin America, especially South America, the more likely someone else is going to come in and do it for us.  Right now, our dependence on foreign oil and energy is definitely a priority in this campaign as well as the war in Iraq, but soon thereafter I really would like to hear a little bit more about our trade and our commerce with Latin America.  

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