Introducing the winners of the Society’s 2020 student foreign policy essay contest

The John Quincy Adams Society is pleased to announce the winners of our fourth annual foreign policy essay contest with The National Interest. This year’s contest offered students a choice of two prompts, each ripped from the headlines.

First, what vital interests might the United States have in the Middle East, and what role might the military have in the vindication of those interests?

Second, what ability ought a president have to initiate military force abroad without Congressional authorization?


First Prize
Artur Kalandarov, Bowdoin College

Connor Lambert, Rhodes College
Peter Whiteneck, American University School of International Service

Honorable Mentions
Solomon Bennett, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Gray Farris, Middle Tennessee State University
Ethan Kessler, University of Michigan
Alison O’Neil, University of Notre Dame

Excerpts from the winners (click names to read more):

Artur Kalandarov: “In order to restore Congress’ war-making powers while maintaining the president’s ability to achieve national-security objectives, a revision of the [2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force] is necessary. Since the War on Terror falls between a limited conflict and nation-state war, the most appropriate model for a revised AUMF concerning insurgent extremism is the 1983 Multinational Force in Lebanon Resolution. The temporal and geographic limitations of the 1983 statute provide a model for responsible, Congress-led force authorization that is in line with its Article I, Section 8 power to declare war.”

Connor Lambert: “The AUMF’s wide scope and unlimited duration also throws into question the integrity of the Constitution itself. By authorizing ‘all necessary and appropriate force’ against a virtually open-ended number of individuals, groups, and nations, this broad directive effectively grants the president with the exact power of ‘declaring war’ that the founders feared of the British King.”

Peter Whiteneck: “Underpinning any sound strategy of retrenchment in the Middle East is the assumption that the region can gradually become more stable despite fewer American troops. Fears of extremism and energy-supply shocks will continue without a strategy that effectively addresses its underlying causes of instability, which a disproportionately militarized approach cannot achieve. This highlights the centrality of promoting economic diversification across the region.”

Solomon Bennett: “War is indeed too serious a decision to leave in the hands of any one individual. Threats to national security have become more dynamic and less regulated by state borders, meaning the president certainly requires some flexibility to be able to respond quickly to imminent threats. But Congress must reclaim its authority in matters of war by reassessing the United States’ counterterrorism role in the Middle East.”

Gray Farris: “Even a title as grandiose as Commander in Chief is still simply a title. The Constitution built a stronger federal government than its predecessor; however, in the foreign affairs arena, and more specifically in troop deployment, the president acts under Congressional authority. The Prize Cases of 1863 further bound the dynamic roles Congress and the president would possess. The president could mobilize troops in the event of a domestic invasion on American soil without seeking initial Congressional authorization, while on the other hand Congress would need to authorize action in the event of an invasion on foreign soil by the United States; and under Federalist 67, Madison set out that the president’s power was defined and confined by the Constitution as a means to prevent unilateral action without Congressional consent.”

Ethan Kessler: “This is not a cry for ‘America First’ isolationism or for America to disengage from all of its overseas commitments. Investment in diplomacy and foreign aid should increase, as should focus on security and fairer economic policies at home. A strong military is necessary for lasting security. But addressing all American interests with military force is costly and distracts from more pressing domestic needs. Thus, organized, expedient withdrawals from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq, along with severe troop reductions in the Gulf and rejoining the JCPOA, are in order.”

Alison O’Neil: “While the United States no longer ‘needs’ the Middle East in the same capacity as it did during the Cold War, it would behoove American policymakers to maintain key infrastructural elements – even if they must do so from further away. Ultimately, reducing the American military presence could benefit both Middle Eastern states and the United States, if done at the right pace.”

You may read winning entries from previous contests at the following links: 20192018,  2017. You may find the original contest announcement here.