Last Thursday, October 6, we had an honor of listening to James Mann’s lecture about American Political Parties and Foreign Policy. He is now in Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies as an author-in-residence and was served for chief writer in various newspapers and magazines including Los Angeles Times. Based on his long experience as a journalist, Mann gave a clear and well-organized lecture about two political parties, Republic and Democratic Party, and how they have been different from each other throughout modern history.
He began his lecture by prompting Iranian Revolution in 1979. At that time, Republicans said they could not push for democracy in Iran because the country was not ready yet. However, in 2003 Iraq War, Republicans changed their attitude. They argued that the U.S. should overthrow the dictator Saddam Hussein and push democracy toward in Iraq. In this case, Democrats asserted the democracy in Iraq would not come in very soon. Like this, two parties have not showed consistent policies. Rather, they shifted from the one to the other. This means that we should avoid having stereotype when we look into party politics with foreign policy.
Mann compared foreign policies from two parties by categorizing three parts: U.S. military, U.S. role in the world and U.S. decline theory. First, he again emphasized people not to have stereotype toward two parties. Usually, people think Republicans are fond of war and Democrats are skeptical of using military forces. In fact, it is not true. They are both supportive of the use of military forces. It is apparent in history.
The second part is somewhat related to the party’s ideology. Republicans are based on Exceptionalism, which means that the U.S. is the unique and different from other countries. They focus on national interests rather than the ideal or American values. On the contrary to that, Democrats tend to emphasize on moral and humanitarian issues. This difference can be found from the party platform 2008, which was distributed in handout. In those documents, Republicans justify intervention in Middle East with a view of national security. However, Democrats considered it like a holy mission giving freedom to people in Middle East.
Third, two parties had been arguing whether the U.S. would decline or not. The dispute was started by Democrats. However, the one who really worried about losing a world power was the Republicans. According to Mann, the reason of Nixon’s opening up to China was to make a strong ally against Soviet Union so that they could prevent spread of communism.
To sum up, two parties have been making their foreign policy according to political situations, so that it tends to go back and forth, not constant. Personally, I think the most, or maybe, the only difference between two parties is ideology. Since Republicans are based on the idea of “America is a city upon hill”, they look the world as realists. On the contrary, Democrats tend to be liberal, so that they make louder voice toward their own view of ideal society. Generally, a party’s interest is to secure its own political interest within the state. They are more likely to care about domestic policy rather than foreign policy. That is why, in my opinion, it is hard to find many differences in foreign policy because it is about national interests not their own parties’ interests. Although there would be arguments what is a national interest or priority between them, the basic and core interest is to secure the country. And both party do not disagree with it.
On the whole, I liked his lecture; however, if he gave more information about the relationship of domestic and foreign policy, like how the each party’s view leads the foreign policy, it would be more abundant in contents.