Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin advocated for an American interventionist policy abroad at a Sept. 20 speech hosted by the McCourt School of Public Policy’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, which was followed by a question-and-answer session.
Hosted in the Healey Family Student Center, McMullin’s remarks, entitled “A New Era of American Leadership,” focused on human rights, the armed forces and America’s relationships with other countries.
McMullin, a former Central Intelligence Agency operations officer from 2001 to 2011 and chief policy director for the House Republican Conference, announced his candidacy for President last month. He also worked for Goldman Sachs, as a deckhand on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska and as a United Nations volunteer refugee resettlement officer.
In his speech at Georgetown, McMullin stressed that the repercussions of foreign conflicts can manifest themselves domestically. He attributed the rise of forces such as the Islamic State Group to the withdrawal of American leadership in the Middle East, allowing terrorism to reign in the resulting power vacuum.
“We may wish that we could simply ignore the world, but we can be sure that the rest of the world will not ignore us,” McMullin said.
McMullin maintained that health crises such as Ebola in West Africa and Zika in Latin America, as well as cyberattacks originating in China, Russia and North Korea, are deeply emblematic of a globalized world order where foreign problems cause domestic concerns.
However, McMullin also acknowledged not all American national security problems originate overseas, citing the United States’ debt crisis as a threat to its ability to uphold its armed forces.
According to the United States Treasury, the current national debt stands around $19.5 trillion.
McMullin cautioned that without reforms, the United States will spend $100 million more annually on interest payments than on defense.
“This will confront us with an untenable choice between massive tax increases or drastic spending cuts that could dangerously weaken our armed forces,” McMullin said. “If we do nothing, our debt will spiral out of control, bringing us ever closer to economic calamity.”
The presidential candidate offered his solution, insisting the government must make responsible reforms to entitlement programs, which are estimated to consume well over 75 percent of the U.S. budget.
He strictly maintained that no further cuts should be imposed on the budget of U.S. Armed Forces, calling the $900 billion budget cut by the Pentagon’s ten-year spending plan under the Obama administration a costly mistake. According to McMullin, this mistake resulted in the armed forces shouldering half the burden of deficit reduction cutting measures, despite the military only accounting for every one in every six federal dollars.
“Our fiscal challenges are choking off the resources that our troops need to remain the best in the world,” McMullin said.
McMullin also criticized the subpar equipment of the military, some of which dates back to the 1980s and 90s. Furthermore, he argued the military has insufficient funds for training. As a believer in achieving peace through strength, he advocated for the improvement of military equipment and training in order to maintain an unquestionable advantage over the rapidly rising armies of countries such as China and Russia.
At the same time, McMullin emphasized how the American commitment to the principle of freedom, both economic and personal, enables it to build a global network of allies and partners who value its leadership instead of fearing its domination.
“We seek not to build an empire, but rather to lead by example, to be a strong friend, a trusted ally, and to the adversaries of liberty, a feared enemy,” McMullin said.
As a former CIA operative, he stressed his firsthand experience as an advantage if he were to become president.
“I’ve experienced multiple wars firsthand. They’re more horrible than people who haven’t experienced them can imagine,” McMullin said. “I learned the precious value of peace and, as President, it would drive me to take the necessary steps to ensure our security.”
McMullin finished his speech by highlighting key principles that he says will inform his leadership and help make America safer, including the importance of the President’s personal conduct, the promotion of democracy and fundamental human rights, and the U.S. duty to intervene when human rights violations occur abroad.
The speech was followed by a question-and-answer session and concluded with an opportunity for attendees to engage with the candidate personally.
During the question-and-answer session, the conversation broached on topics ranging from women’s rights in Saudi Arabia to the current refugee crisis.
Grant Olson (COL ’19), who attended the event, said he appreciated the aspect of the event that gave students the opportunity to ask McMullin questions about his foreign policy.
“I had read a lot about McMullin and his candidacy in the news over the summer, and I was incredibly excited to see him talk,” Olson said. “Even though I am not a supporter of his candidacy, he is an ideas-focused candidate who adds to the debate that we are having about the direction that we want to head in as a nation.”
Lizzie Porterfield (COL ’19), who met McMullin after the event, also said she believed McMullin heightens the level of national political discourse.
“He was a really nice, down-to-earth guy,” Porterfield said. “And his policies were precise and well thought-out.”
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