Foreign Policy

The Foreign Policy Questions Trump and Biden Should Answer

American voters deserve careful scrutiny of the candidates' positions on individual conflicts.


The topic list for the final presidential debate this Thursday—assuming it happens—is broad. In just an hour and a half, President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will be asked to address the COVID-19 pandemic, American families, race, climate change, leadership, and national security.

These are all worthwhile topics, but the latter is uniquely important for this office. The president does not have the Constitutional power to start new wars, whatever recent practice may suggest, but he does have the power to end them, and our country has a lot of wars overdue for conclusion. American voters deserve careful scrutiny of the candidates' positions on individual conflicts and larger strategic matters alike. Here are a few questions Trump and Biden should answer.

Afghanistan. This is the longest war and nation-building project in American history, and you have both pledged to end it. President Trump, you've backtracked on exit plans before and don't intend to withdraw the last ground troops before Inauguration Day. What is your purpose in this delay, and what will you do if that purpose is not achieved by next summer's withdrawal deadline? Vice President Biden, what is the meaningful difference between your Afghanistan policy and your opponent's? Will you end this war within six months of your inauguration?

Iraq. After initially supporting the 2003 invasion, you have both more recently called the war in Iraq a mistake. The American public agrees: Two thirds say the war wasn't worth fighting, and the Army's history of Iraq describes a "doomed" venture in which the United States failed "to attain its strategic objectives" and instead produced regional destabilization, hundreds of thousands of American and Iraqi casualties, and up to $2 trillion debt-funded spending. What lesson(s) do you see here? Do you anticipate ending this war within four years if you win this election? If not, why not?

Yemen. The Obama administration began supporting the Saudi-led coalition intervention into Yemen's civil war in 2015, and the Trump administration has continued to enable coalition actions that have been widely labeled war crimes. Vice President Biden, when did you first oppose the U.S. role in Yemen, and what is your schedule for ending it? President Trump, you vetoed a bipartisan bill with strong public support that would have required U.S. departure. Under what circumstances, if any, would you change your mind on this issue?

North Korea. U.S. diplomacy with North Korea is at a standstill and has seen little real progress since the first summit with leader Kim Jong-un in 2018. Washington continues to insist on complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization (CVID) as the only acceptable goal in negotiations despite strong evidence this is not an aim Pyongyang will accept so long as it believes forcible, U.S.-orchestrated regime change—like in Iraq—is a risk. To both candidates: Will you continue indefinitely to insist on CVID in your talks with North Korea? Will you pursue a peace treaty for the Korean War?

Iran. Our relationship with Iran is at a five-year low since the Trump administration left the Iran nuclear deal and instituted its counterproductive "maximum pressure" approach, which demands Tehran concede everything in exchange for nothing before negotiations even begin. Vice President Biden, you've said you'd rejoin the deal but intend to continue sanctioning Iran. How will your Iran policy progress beyond that of the Obama administration, which contributed to cruel shortages of food and medicine for ordinary Iranians? President Trump, you've said we'll have a new nuclear deal with Iran "within one month" if you're re-elected. What will you do if we don't? How will you avoid repeating the needlessly dangerous position in which you put us this past January?

Great power competition. How would you characterize U.S. relations with China and Russia? In what circumstances would you risk war with these fellow nuclear powers? How aggressively would you deploy U.S. troops near their borders, as in the South China Sea, or in nations where they have a ground presence, like Syria? Would you intervene militarily to fight against Russia in Eastern Europe or to protect Taiwan from invasion by Beijing? If yes, please explain the necessity of that choice to defend U.S. national security.

Grand strategy. How would you describe your grand strategy for U.S. foreign policy? What do you consider vital U.S. security interests—interests that require military defense because our country cannot survive without them? The U.S. keeps around 150,000 troops at 800 bases in 70 nations worldwide. Do you believe that global sprawl is necessary for U.S. security? What is your method of diplomacy, and how do you conceive its place within your strategy for foreign affairs? Why are you best suited to steward the United States toward safety and peace?

NEXT: The Games Must Go On

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  1. How about this one for Biden?

    This has been the first administration in 4 decades that has not started an overseas war, but you continue to criticize the foreign policy efforts of President Trump as mistakes. So, do you believe it was a mistake to not start any wars, and if so, who do you plan to attack first if elected president?

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  2. No no, what I think we need to know is if Trump will disavow racists for 46th time.


    2. He still hasn't used the magic words we're looking for.

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    3. And climate change.
      Can't forget climate change.
      We all really totes care about it.

  3. No Israel and Saudi question? To hard to spin both sides I guess.

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  4. On China for Biden,

    As China escalates its aggression towards Hong Kong and military buildup in the South China Sea that threats Taiwan and other regional countries, how big a bribe to you plan to demand to look the other way if elected president?

    1. And what about a job for Hunter?

      1. Ixnay on the Unterhay.

        - scrawled in menstrual blood on the first page of the Reason stylebook.

    2. Would you also ask about Trump's bank accounts in China or does that get a pass?

      1. As if you would ever actually ask the question if given the chance. You never would because you don't want people to hear the answer.

      2. From the NYT/BBC
        "The account is controlled by Trump International Hotels Management and paid local taxes between 2013 and 2015."

        oh...the horror!!! An international business organization head had a bank account in China!!!! That was reported to the IRS!!!!!

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  6. Serious foreign policy questions? That's so adorable.

    How about questions that might clarify the actual Constitutional powers of the president? We can even make them true-false to give the candidates--and the public--a decent chance at scoring 50%.

  7. We don't need Biden to answer any questions. We already know he'd implement a better, more pro-America foreign policy because — unlike Drumpf — he's not a Russian intelligence asset.


    1. Ugh man, you are looking too much like the spam bots these days- avoid the one sentence with a one or two word link.

    2. By pro-American you mean pro-Chinese?

      1. Would there really be any difference in an "Open[No]Borders" society?

  8. "Our relationship with Iran is at a five-year low..."


    No loaded question there.

    1. The Vox is strong with this one.

      1. Yeah, it's not even clear if she knows how skewed her viewpoint is.

    2. Well, it's been almost five years since we sent the Iranian government pallets of cash money. I guess that's what she sees as the "high point".

    3. This is important because we were on the way to making progress with Iran and Trump threw it all away to get back at President Obama. Petulance is not a good basis for foreign policy.

      1. "...on the way to making progress..."

        LOL, a circumlocution wrapped in pretense.

        Which, when you think about it, really sums up the entirety of the Obama years.


      2. by progress, you mean paying for their continued development of weapons-grade uranium and looking the other way when the crack down on internal protests?

      3. No we were not. Capitulating to a terrorist regime is not progress you leftist twit.

    4. Ma imum Pressure is " ounterproductive". What we need is to drop more pallets of cash

  9. Wait, how did killing the guy who was sending assets against US citizens put us in a "needlessly dangerous position"? Was Iran going to invade the US over it? Have they done *anything* functional in response?

    1. Because Trump did it and not Barack drone-strike-at-your-wedding-reception Obama.

  10. Thank you, Bonnie, for pointing out Trump's rabidly bellicose call to arms on the eve of the invasion of Iraq:

    Outlets like Politifact and BuzzFeed News have pointed out in the past that Trump in 2002 expressed tepid approval of the impending U.S. invasion.

    In an interview that only briefly touched on the subject, Howard Stern asked Trump "Are you for invading Iraq?"

    Trump appears to hesitate, responding, “Yeah, I guess so. I wish the first time it was done correctly.”

    1. There is also a little bit of a difference between a private citizen with no control over if we invade or not being for an invasion and someone who actually votes for the invasion. For one thing, the former doesn't have the resources the latter has to see if the invasion is justified.

    2. "Rabidly bellicose" when Trump says yeah, I guess so, hesitantly.

      You are one large fucking idiot cuck who would suck Toobin's shriveled dick just for a chance to play at politics. Fuck you and your senile far left candidate and his entire corrupt crime family.

  11. “Vice President Biden, if elected, will Mama Jill ever let you stay up past breakfast time?”

    He's almost as funny as Kristian. If slightly less earnest about it.

  12. My question is what will you do to support and strengthen the State Department. These are the heart of foreign policy, because these are the people who bring in information and work out details. We have President who has no respect for the work of people under him. That is a problem that will need to be corrected. The President makes the decisions, but he can only make decisions as good as the information people bring to him. If you can't bring information you have a problem (see Coronavirus).

    1. The striped pants crowd being largely comprised of clerics of the one world religion your love for them is unsurprising.

  13. Gee, too bad the debate moderator changed the topics for the debate tonight. The debate moderator evidently doesn't think foreign policy matters.

    1. The debate moderator will do whatever it takes to help Biden over the finish line.

      1. Tonight will be interesting. Now that Welker has been 'outed' as a Never Trumper, will she play it straight, or try to help Biden by not asking tough follow-ups?

        I personally think she will go for broke to whack The Donald.

  14. Imagine caring about the "relationship" between the US and Iran or North Korea, the only two countries on the planet which, as far as I know, routinely fantasize in state media about destroying the United States in a cloud of nuclear fire. I'm not saying we should go to all out war with them, but the very idea of diplomacy is laughable. The first priority should be ensuring they can never make good on their fantasies, beyond that who gives a shit?

    1. Oh, please. Everybody knows the "Death to America!" stuff is just talk and they don't really mean it. Why, if you went around believing everything your enemies said about you, you have to believe that your enemies are actually your enemies and we know that's not true. Everybody loves us and anything that gets in the way of that love is just a misunderstanding. That's why we have all these experts at the State Department, to iron out these misunderstandings.

      1. Sadly I think you have accurately encapsulated Kristian's thinking.

  15. One question that hasn't been asked in any of the 15 debates (going back to the Dem primaries):

    What are your plans for reducing the 27 trillion dollar national debt?

    1. ^This.. Although we already know the answer.

      Biden; Steal more money from the successful competent citizens and give more of it to the incompetent who don't want to earn anything while Borrowing even more money.

      Trump; Boom the economy by Borrowing more money and giving it all away to people without their name attached to it so the next generation can deal with it.

      Citizen; So the opposing solutions to the national debt is "borrow more"?

      1. Death and taxes for people.

        Self preservation and currency debasement for governments.

        Thus has it always been.

      2. Citizen, "Well, I guess that's okay so long as I can borrow for a house well beyond my means, avoid any responsibility for my credit cards (bankruptcy), and borrow endlessly for failing pipe-dreams/status and borrow endless amounts of money for phony education too as long as I (PERSONALLY) don't have to have any responsibility for it."

        Gotta love the unrestrained mobster-democracy going on in this country.

        1. In the face of unrestrained government spending and fiat currency the only rational response is acquisition of debt.

          He who defaults last wins.

  16. relationship w/Iran lol. ask Biden how much he's already in the bag to China I bet if you hit him early with it the stimulants in him might act as a truth serum.

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