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Professors explore foreign policy and presidential election

| Wednesday, April 20, 2016

ND Votes hosted their final installment of “Pizza, Pop, and Politics” on Tuesday night with Michael Desch, professor of political science, and Mary Ellen O’Connell, the Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law and research professor of international dispute resolution, speaking on issues of foreign policy related to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

pizza pop WEBGrace Tourville

Desch began by speaking on domestic public sentiment on United States foreign policy.

“The message in 2014 and 2015 is that there is a significant uptick in the public’s prioritization of domestic political issues, ” Desch said.

Desch said this change in sentiment was largely due to “war weariness” and said American voters are much more skeptical of involvement in foreign conflicts.

“American voters are asking the question, What’s in it for us?’ They want to be persuaded that, if we go abroad in search of a monster, these are monsters that is in the interest of the United States to slay,” he said.

Desch also touched upon the seeming continuity between candidates of the major parties on issues of foreign policy.

“Clinton and Cruz both believe that the United States should continue to pursue a policy of maintaining U.S. leadership globally,” he said.

Desch also mentioned the ability of anti-establishment candidates to shake up the traditional stances of the United States on foreign policy.

“[It is interesting] how well the anti-establishment candidates, who I would characterize as Donald Trump and Senator Sanders, have done by flaunting some of the foreign policy standards that have dominated American political discourse for 30 or 40 years,” Desch said. “Just the other day, Senator Sanders gave a speech in Brooklyn, New York that was heavily critical of Israel.”

O’Connell spoke on the foreign policy topics she believes the next president should pursue and said she was inspired by issues brought to the forefront by Pope Francis. She said addressing issues related to the environment and climate change are important in order to help alleviate struggle abroad.

“If we want to have prosperity for ourselves in this country, we must do something about the environment.  We must be innovative, we must lead. The next president must really become the first green president,” O’Connell said.

Improving the environment can help advance human rights causes — an area she believes the United States has fallen behind recently, she said. She also emphasized that a reprioritization of priorities was necessary.

“Abroad, the United States tries to promote itself as the country with the most military force,” she said. “The next president could truly lead in a way that makes [the] greatest sense for your future if he or she begins to revalue what really counts.” 

O’Connell said foreign policy today comes with less than desirable tradeoffs, but concluded on an optimistic note regarding the potential good that could be accomplished as a result of a shift in foreign policy.

“We can have the concept of living in a community with, dare I say … love be[ing] the basis on which we all live together,” she said.

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About Lucas Masin-Moyer

Lucas Masin-Moyer is a senior at Notre Dame majoring in Political Science and American Studies. He serves as Assistant Managing Editor, lived in Morrissey Manor and hails from Telford, Pennsylvania.

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