To define what it means to be a ruler is an arduous task that promises few satisfactory results. Ever since the days of ancient Greece, what it means to be a ruler has been a topic of discussion. Hence, the easiest way not fall through the rabbit hole of continuous equivocation, I’ll declare that to be a ruler, and more specifically a good leader, will depend on the circumstances. No situation demands the same actions and, thus, no situation will demand the same reaction and foresight from a leader.
When the parameters are similar, however, certain characteristics can be arrived upon as common denominators for good rulers. In a liberal democratic state, there are certain expectations to what the government will do for its citizenry. Various liberties and rights are commonly expected, as is reducing social and economic inequality, as to further the quality of life for as many people as possible. Thus, we can proclaim a good ruler to be one that fulfils these expectations.
Hence, when the USA is choosing its next president, you would think that the main concerns of the average American would be systematic racism, police brutality, domestic surveillance of its citizens, climate change, how money in politics have turned the US from a democracy into an oligarchy, the rich are getting richer while everyone else are getting poorer, lack of access to proper healthcare and education for those who are not wealthy, a political system which is less efficient than a guinea pig in a quagmire, a polarised political landscape where cooperation is considered an alien concept, unemployment, how banks can go bankrupt, be bailed out by taxpayers money, and then continue as before, or any of the other thousand problems that the USA has. Instead, however, what the mainstream media, pundits and other dimwits try to assert is that the only thing that matters is foreign policy.
Bernie Sanders is not a viable candidate for the presidency, so-called experts claim, because he doesn’t have enough foreign policy experience. It is, however, hard to see how foreign policy experience is the most decisive skill a president can have. Yes, ISIS might seem scary and Russia loves to aggressively flail its arms in other people’s faces. Yet, none of the problems listed above, the problems that the average American suffers from each day, originated abroad. Hence, it ought to be clear that to be a good ruler in the US, you don’t need foreign policy experience. Instead, you need the political will to oppose the forces that seeks to preserve inequity; you need the vision to stake out a new and undiscovered path; and you must be able to take the first step leading society forward, being a force for advancement, away from fixed platitudes. So far, Hillary Clinton has not shown any such qualities. Her only selling point is that she has the experience to maintain the status quo and carry on with business as usual.
Moreover, even if Clinton had the political aptitude necessary to rid the USA of its ills, her so-called foreign policy experience is at best dubious. Her dabbling in foreign affairs have repeatedly proven disastrous. Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Syria; if this is what Clinton considers successes, it’ll be exciting to see what she’ll consider successes at a domestic level. Then it is the simple fact that a candidate’s personal familiarity with an area of politics is of limited significance. As aptly argued by a professor of International Relations: even experts in international affairs can only claim prowess in very limited areas of the field. To think that a President ever will be a leading expert on foreign policy is inane and demonstrates a high level of ignorance towards how governments really work. Like every other President, what matters is the advisors the President surrounds him or herself with, their personal judgement and the vision that the President pursues. Where Clinton has a history of opting for callous and aggressive decisions, Sanders wishes to pursue reflected diplomacy; so you make up your own mind.
It is absurd that a country which is riddled with domestic issues that continue to tarnish the country care more about their actions abroad than what they achieve at home. Hence, Sanders’ relative peripheral concern with foreign policy is not simply irrelevant to his aptitude as President; it might in fact prove to be a boon for the USA.