Associate Fellow, US and the Americas Programme
Rachel RizzoResearch Associate, Strategy and Statecraft Program, CNAS
Adam TwardowskiJoseph S Nye Jr Research Intern, Strategy and Statecraft Program, CNAS

Whatever the outcome, this is one of the most consequential presidential elections in US history, and it will shape the future of the United States’ role in the world for years, even decades, to come.

Cpl Ryan Dills communicates with other assault amphibious vehicles during the Rim of the Pacific multinational military exercise on 18 July 2016. Photo: US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Giannetti.Cpl Ryan Dills communicates with other assault amphibious vehicles during the Rim of the Pacific multinational military exercise on 18 July 2016. Photo: US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt Christopher Giannetti.

Summary

  • Defence policy has taken centre stage in what has proven to be one of the most contentious and polarizing US presidential election campaigns in history. The stakes are high given today’s increasingly complex international security landscape, and each candidate offers different futures for the United States in terms of defence policy.
  • Americans have conflicting views on US engagement overseas, which has made it difficult to propose policies regarding the country’s role in the world. While they generally support US ‘leadership’, policy proposals that advocate US retrenchment have also resonated among them.
  • Hillary Clinton advocates robust American engagement overseas. She supports traditional alliances like NATO, while taking a firm line on Russia. She also supports an increased role for the United States in eradicating the threat of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and in stabilizing Syria and the broader Middle East.
  • Donald Trump has proposed contradictory defence goals. He pledges to destroy ISIS, but voices scepticism over US military engagement. He also has called for significantly increasing the size of the military, voiced frustration with what he sees as the failure of NATO and European allies to provide for their own defence, and praised international leaders (Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, for example) who are viewed by some as adversaries of the United States.