Basic Briefing

The Defense and Foreign Policy Debate

The debate on Defense and Foreign Policy focuses on the military, foreign relations, and foreign aid. Should the US military be involved in the conflicts in Syria or Iraq? How should the US react to Russia’s involvement in Ukraine? Should the US change its policy on giving foreign aid? What is America’s role in the world?

Official Democratic position

The Democratic Party believes soldiers should be sent "into harm’s way only when it is absolutely necessary.” The Party believes “…a more agile and flexible” military is necessary for American security. The party also believes that US allies have a responsibility to maintain strong militaries.

The Party supports promoting free and fair trade, and working with governments to pursue global food security.

Official Republican position

“The Republican Party is the advocate for a strong national defense as the pathway to peace, economic prosperity, and the protection of those yearning to be free.” The party opposes any cuts to the defense budget.

The Party supports free and fair trade “…among nations committed to the principles of open markets.” The Party believes that foreign aid should be limited because private charitable aid “tends to be more effective and efficient.”

Institutional framework

The President is the Commander in Chief of the military. The President works with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on military actions. However, it is Congress that has the authority to declare war and determines the military budget.

Under the direction of the President, the Secretary of State leads foreign diplomacy efforts. The Secretary of State negotiates treaties and agreements with foreign nations. However, the Senate must ratify all treaties.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department work with the President to allocate foreign aid and measure its impact.

Most Vocal on Defense and Foreign Policy

These are the candidates who focus on this issue the most, with the most liberal on this issue on the left and the most conservative on this issue on the right. Click on the circles to see more information.

Patrick Toomey | Candidate for US Senate (2022) in Pennsylvania (PA) | Crowdpac Lindsey Graham | Candidate for US Senate, primary (2020) in South Carolina (SC) | Crowdpac Charles Rangel | 13th Congressional District (2014) in New York (NY) | Crowdpac Steve Israel | 3rd Congressional District (2014) in New York (NY) | Crowdpac Jerry Cannon | 1st Congressional District (2014) in Michigan (MI) | Crowdpac Dan Coats | US Senate (2014) in Indiana (IN) | Crowdpac Ted Cruz | Candidate for US Senate, primary (2018) in Texas (TX) | Crowdpac Chris Coons | Candidate for US Senate, primary (2020) in Delaware (DE) | Crowdpac Tim Kaine | Candidate for US Senate, primary (2018) in Virginia (VA) | Crowdpac Duncan Hunter | Candidate for 50th Congressional District, primary (2018) in California (CA) | Crowdpac

The Spectrum on Defense and Foreign Policy

These are the candidates who are most liberal, most conservative, and most moderate on this specific issue. Click on each candidate to see more information.

Relevant Committees


Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) - A non-partisan think tank specializing in international relations and foreign affairs

Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) - A center that does focusing on studies and strategic analyses on political, economic and security issues throughout the world