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Decryptions of presidential candidates’ foreign policies

Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report
OU faculty during the talk (l-r): Alan McPherson, Robert Lifset, Firat Demir, Lihui Zhang and Joshua Landis.
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NORMAN, Okla. – For one who doesn’t know what are the foreign policies of the two main candidates for the presidential seat, five University of Oklahoma faculty gave a lecture on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s foreign programs on Monday.

The faculty members present were Robert Lifset, a professor of History, Firat Demir, a professor in the Department of Economics, Lihui Zhang, a Ph.D. student in political science, Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies and Alan McPherson, the chair of Latin American Studies and the director of the Center for Middle East Studies.

Environment, energy

Lifset said energy and environment are the forgotten issues of the presidential candidates. Concerning Clinton, she promised to continue the politics of Obama’s that recognizes climate change, reducing carbon emissions by continuing to subsidize green energies and reducing it for fossil fuels. Clinton also supports fracking, but will strengthen regulations to protect local water supplies and reduced methane pollution.

At the opposite, Lifset said Trump believes the climate change is a hoax sponsored by the Chinese, advancing no proofs on his allegation. Trump will cancel the Paris Agreement, stop the funding of any UN programs geared to stopping global warming and cancel the green power plan.

However, Lifset said it is unclear where Trump stands on energy subsidies adding, “We can speculate that he will reduce tax for fossil fuels and reduce subsidiaries for green energies.”

Lifset also said Trump is supporting gas and coal energies, which is a contradiction because these two sources of energies are competing against each other today. Lifset said Trump wants the U.S. to become energy self-sufficient, which will also end the U.S. intervention in the Middle East. But Lifset believes this is something unrealizable today because the U.S. only produces half of the oil of the country needs.

“In 40 years of U.S. energy policies, between local energy and cheap energy, cheap energy always won,” Lifset concluded.


Demir said the position of Trump’s is all the trades agreements are against the interest of America and destroyed a lot of American jobs in a profit of cheaper countries such as Mexico. And therefore Trump will renegotiate these trade agreements.

For Clinton’s position, Demir said the situation is more complex and since her confrontation with Bernie Sanders, Clinton changed her position to “the trade agreements didn’t meet her standards.”

“We don’t know enough about why she changed her mind,” Demir said.

Demir said the reality of the impact of the trades agreements on the American economy are more complex than Trump wants to say. On both sides of the Rio Grande, workers have lost their jobs because of the NAFTA, and therefore fueled the emmigration into the U.S. that Trump is also denouncing.

Demir added the real purpose of the NAFTA was to provide more flexibilities and rights for corporations but not for workers. Demir also said 70 percent of U.S. corporations didn’t pay taxes in 2015 and cut U.S. corporate taxes, which is already one of the lowest in the world, is not in the interest of the nation.

Demir concluded that the candidates are not talking about the real economic issues affecting the U.S. saying, “It is not about free trade, it is about what kind of economy we want to build.”


Lihui said despite Trump’s discourse, he is more appreciated than Clinton in China noting, “Clinton is going to give China a harder time.”

Clinton has a strong relationship with countries around China, she was also a big supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) and she is against the domination of China concerning the South China Sea dispute against other neighboring countries.

“Clinton’s statements toward China have always been negative, even when she was First Lady,” Lihui said.

At the opposite, Lihui said Trump’s policies will be more profitable toward China as he wants to lower the cost of the U.S. military presence in Asia by a possible withdrawal from South Korea and Japan. Trump also expressed is opposition against the TPP that serves to contain China’s influence in the region.

Lihui added that Trump’s popularity in China is due to a large amount of people watching Trump’s TV reality show The Apprentice and reading his book The Art of the Deal, which shows the career of a successful man saying, “His book is a best seller in China.”

In addition, Trump’s Islamophobia was mostly well received in China where recent terrorist attacks happened.

The Middle East conflicts, Russia, Iran, Israel, Islam

Landis said Clinton was for the invasion of Iraq and the promotion of the democracy since the beginning while Trump has always been against it noting, “Trump is in midways reverse the entire Republican platform toward the Middle East.”

Concerning Russia, Landis said Clinton is totally against Putin’s policies in Syria and Ukraine, then Trump at the opposite admires him. Trump totally supports dictatorships in the Middle East necessary in his view for maintaining the stability in the region and eradicate ISIS.

At the opposite, Clinton is for supporting the Kurds, Syrian moderate rebels and creating a no-fly zone to overthrow Assad, destroy ISIS and establish a democracy.

Then, Landis said as Clinton is supporting the nuclear deal with Iran, Trump is of course against it.

Landis said both candidates support Israel and will continue to financially help the country adding, “Trump was not so clear on his position toward Israel at the beginning.”

Further, Landis said when Clinton makes a difference between Muslims and extremists Muslims, Trump, after the attack in Florida wants to stop Muslims’ immigration adding, “Trump’s statement was popular among Republicans.”

Latin America

McPherson said Trump is personally involved in Latin America through his holding company and other investments he made, but Trump’s statements have often been xenophobe toward this region promoting the construction of a wall (paid by Mexico) between the U.S. and Mexico. Trump also wants reform on the law of immigration without more details in how he will proceed.

At the opposite, Clinton promotes engagement, trades, democracy and open borders. Clinton also wants to provide health care to immigrants, increase naturalization, funding for English learning and the creation of an office of immigrations affairs.

“Everything else is essentially the same things as Obama,” McPherson said.

Concerning Cuba, McPherson said Trump is against any agreement with the country and will remove what Obama has done, while Clinton will continue Obama’s policy adding, “When she was the First Lady, she was clearly against any opening with Cuba.”

The only point of agreement between both candidates is their opposition to the regime in Venezuela.

“The result of Trump’s policies toward Latin America is a high animosity of the Latinos against Trump,” McPherson said, adding Trump’s policies benefit to Clinton concerning the Latinos vote in the U.S.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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