Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse talks foreign policy and America’s place on the world stage


David Boschwitz/Iowa State Daily

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, spoke in the Memorial Union on bridging the gap between Republicans and Democrats, and the US’s role in foreign affairs on Oct. 25.

Eli Harris

Sen. Ben Sasse spoke to a crowded room on Thursday night at the Memorial Union to address the topic of human dignity in the 21st century.

Sasse is one of Nebraska’s senators and is currently serving his first term as a Republican after his election in 2014. He quickly became a rising figure in national media and among conservatives because of his consistent voting record.

However, his political leanings have not stopped him from having a conversation about civility and decency — things he believes have been weakened in our current political system.

He said this infighting is distracting the country from a very important issue: America’s place on the world stage.

Sasse said there are two prominent ideas in American foreign policy that are popular at the moment.

The first is a brand of isolationism in which people believe that the rest of the world has failed the U.S. and that it should pull away and divert more concern to its own problems. The second ideal is that the U.S. should be heavily involved in world affairs almost to a “world police” level.

He says that these are both wrong and that the country should learn from both its mistakes and successes. Before the first world war, the U.S. was fairly removed from the rest of the world. The war provided an example for why isolationism could be dangerous.

“It proved that what happened in 20th century Europe would not stay in 20th century Europe.”

The United States still tried to remain isolated from Europe after the war and the lack of involvement may have had a costly effect for World War II.

Sasse said after the second war, America learned to be a global leader because it made the entire planet better off.

Currently, he sees America taking a step in the wrong direction on foreign policy. He called out both Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama for their handling of America’s leadership.

“This administration and the last administration have a lot of consensus about the need to pull back,” Sasse said.

With contenders for world leadership like China and Russia, Sasse is worried U.S. weakness may end up badly for the entire globe saying that if America retreats from the world, bad actors will fill that role.

Sasse said people around the world would not want this outcome. He referred to North Korean refugees, political dissidents and the recent journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in Turkey earlier this month.

“The rest of the world sees us as a beacon of hope,” Sasse said.

He said multiple times throughout his speech that the world is worse off without the U.S. as a leader. To become the example, he says there are several things that must be done.

First, Sasse said we need to secure our own border. When asked about the caravan of migrants traveling to the U.S. from central America, he replied, “The U.S. is a nation of immigrants. The U.S. is also a nation of laws.”

He also said previous laws are to blame.

“The situation was created by bad policies,” Sasse said.

The second goal Sasse said the United States should strive for is cybersecurity which he said is very important as cyber attacks are becoming more of a threat, especially within the election system.

The last thing Sasse talked about was the importance of consistency in foreign policy.

Having a foreign policy that changes with each new president or election is not a long-term solution, Sasse said. To solve this problem, he said recognizing the country’s principles and interests should be an important part of foreign policy.

“When America chooses to lead, peace and prosperity inevitably follow,” he said.