Americans do not care about foreign policy


Despite the fact that 59.2 million viewers turned in for third presidential debate, very few Americans actually care about foreign policy. One would think that Americans would be anything but ambivalent towards foreign policy: seeing that the United States has been conducting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for the past decade; operating drones in Yemen and Pakistan; aiding rebel forces in Libya, Egypt, and Syria; and conducting joint military training missions with Israel. Some people have dubbed the American military as the “world’s police force.” Whether someone agrees with the United States’ military actions is another matter. The fact still remains that, more often than not, the United States is involved in, at least in some capacity, all major conflicts around the globe. Therefore, would not someone assume that Americans are the most interested and educated regarding topics of foreign policy? Well, the answer is quite simply no.

This lack of interest in foreign policy is evident in the current presidential campaign climate. In a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, when voters were asked what they deemed the most important national issue, only six percent of respondents said it was foreign policy and the Middle East and an even lower one percent considered terrorism to be the number one issue. These low percentages are completely understandable, given that the economy is widely considered the number one issue concerning Americans in this presidential election. However important the economy may be to voters, one would think that foreign policy issues would at least be on the minds of some voters. Though, in a CBS/New York Times poll from early September, 2012, it did not include a single foreign policy item on the list of issues most important to voters. Even in the climate of escalating violence in Syria, increased tension between Israel and Iran, and the killing of four United States diplomats at the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Americans still overlook foreign policy issues as being important to them.

Many people cite the relative security in the world as one of the reasons for why Americans are just not that interested in foreign policy issues. In Michael A. Cohen’s article titled “What Else Is On?” from www.foreignpolicy.com, he argues that the United States faces no major national security threats and that the threat of terrorism, the topic that consumed the American psyche after September 11, 2001, has diminish significantly. He also discusses how more Americans acknowledge the fact that the United States has less influence in world affairs than it used to in the past. And because of this waning influence, American’s desire to become involved in foreign affairs is diminishing as well. The below YouTube video offers its own suggestions for why Americans do not care about foreign policy issues.

Even though the general American public may been uninterested in foreign policy, the United States’ ubiquitous presence in the world is not going to recede anytime soon. In the most recent presidential debate, President Obama and Governor Romney regurgitated the same position that past presidents have always said, that the United States military will continue to be the most powerful in the world and that the United States will continue to be the strongest geopolitical actor. In addition to this flowery rhetoric, the American military is currently operating a join-military training mission with Israel. While the training mission has been planned for the past several years, it sends a clear message to Iran and other anti-American actors in the Middle East that the United States is there to stay. Regardless of what is most important to the American people, the United States will continue to prioritize its dominance and influence in the rest of the world. How effective it will be in exerting this world influence in the future is an entirely different matter to discuss.

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4 thoughts on “Americans do not care about foreign policy

  1. While I do personally take an interest in foreign policy, my great great grandmother had a saying: “charity begins at home”. I believe the reason why Americans are not voting with foreign policy in mind is because they are more interested in what is going to directly affect their lives. They want jobs and stability. The sad thing is that our foreign policy has serious implications for our economy. For example: continual spending on never ending wars and bombs is not going to improve the deficit.

  2. As soon as I saw the title to this post I was intrigued. I have had this same thought go through my head when it comes to what a ‘typical’ American is concerned with I would say. In my personal experience, when discussions about politics arise, they are usually centered on our economy, the creation of jobs, or even a social topic of abortion or gay marriage. I see that many citizens still have the perspective that I once held. I heard all of the headlines on a daily basis and knew of the major issues, but never looked further in detail. I would assume that many know of the problems in the Middle East and the unrest that is found there, but to know the history, origins, the problems or the issues is further than most go. I think that this is a great concern that we should have because of our global impact and our extensive involvement in foreign affairs. Like Brittnee’s point, we do have to start at home and get well-grounded before we can truly devote our time abroad. However, this has to be a unique balance because our foreign relations are a vital part of how we function at home. Both need a respectable amount of attention in order for our country to move forward.

  3. This topic is saddening and very true. In the 2008 US presidential election, 34% of Americans did not vote. This significant portion of the population is not showing any interest in foreign affairs, or internal affairs for that matter. As for the 64% of citizens who did vote, I would agree that many do not have a strong interest or stance on foreign policy. Instead the most popular point of interest I have personally noticed is taxes. I have heard friends say things along the lines of, “Under Obama’s plan my dad is paying 70% percent taxes on his business”, “I don’t want to pay for people who don’t work” and “My parents can’t afford the tax increase.” The US has one of the lowest corporate tax rates of developed nations and in my opinion Americans need to suck it up and pay their price to be citizens of this country. I think a line that many Americans need to think about is, you are only as strong as your weakest players.

  4. I think the fact that most Americans do not care about foreign policy is very sad and shows quite frankly the ignorance that America is often portrayed with. While I agree with Brittnee that many Americans are most concerned about the aspects within our country, foreign policy also plays a large role. The US likes to play a part in all the major happening around the world, yet Americans are not informed about it and do not care to be. Many just want the US to intervene and exert its power on other countries without understanding the situation that is going on. In order to have a solid opinion on global issues, Americans must first learn about them and fully understand them. When the US reacts to a situation without having accurate knowledge, that is when the issues start to occur. This election has showed how little many Americans know about what is going on in our country and the ones around it.

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