In our increasingly interconnected world, the foreign policies carried out by the U.S. Government impact all of us - either directly or indirectly.
Our country faces a number of serious foreign policy problems – not the least of which are our dependence on foreign sources of energy and the possibility that weapons of mass destruction could fall into the hands of terrorists.
I'm a strong believer that a thoughtful US foreign policy can save countless American lives and resources in the long run and improve our standard of living.
That's why I support a foreign policy that seeks to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and to bring peace to volatile parts of the globe like the Middle East and Africa. I also support humanitarian assistance for desperately poor parts of the world and the victims of war and natural disasters. Finally, I believe that the United States should promote democracy and human rights around the world – and that a US policy of consistently promoting such values will benefit our country substantially in the long run.
The most effective means of achieving these goals are usually diplomatic, not military. We must use all of the foreign policy tools at our disposal. We can't rely upon military force alone to protect our country.
Sometimes, however, the use of military force is necessary. I supported the invasion of Afghanistan because I believed it was necessary to substantially reduce Al Qaeda's ability to attack our country and our citizens. I believe the invasion achieved this goal - and that, especially after the death of Osama bin Laden, we should rapidly bring US combat forces home.
I opposed the invasion of Iraq from the start, on the other hand. I argued at the time that Iraq posed no immediate threat to the United States – and subsequent events have proven me correct. I believe that time has shown that invading Iraq did nothing to advance the war on terror – and that, in fact, it most likely had the opposite effect by angering many nations around the world – and especially by alienating many Muslims. The invasion and occupation of Iraq also distracted the Bush Administration from quickly and effectively ending our military's mission in Afghanistan. I have voted repeatedly to end US combat operations in Iraq.
The United States' long-term foreign policy interests are best served when the United States acts abroad as a peacemaker and an advocate of democracy and human rights. We must work now for peace in the Middle East, an end to the genocide in Sudan, and respect for human rights and the rule of law in places like Russia, China, Zimbabwe, and Kenya.
In addition, the US government should be working harder at multilateral efforts to combat terrorism and prevent the spread of the technology for developing and deploying weapons of mass destruction than it did under the Bush Administration. The United States has spent over $600 billion in Iraq – the Bush administration's signature endeavor to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction. I think we could have gotten a lot more bang for our bucks – or maybe I should say "a lot LESS bang for our bucks"? One of the most cost-effective steps we could have taken to prevent devastating terrorist attacks with WMDs would have been to increase funding for the Nunn-Lugar program, which is dismantling nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union. We should have stepped up our other anti-proliferation efforts as well. It's still not too late to do that, and I strongly believe we should, right away.
Finally, the United States should adopt domestic energy policies that will reduce our reliance on unstable regions of the globe for our energy supplies. We've spent the last 50 years supporting repressive regimes in the Middle East in order to ensure our nation's continued access to cheap petroleum. Our continued reliance on Middle Eastern oil probably constitutes our single greatest national security threat. Replacing petroleum imports with alternative sources of energy like wind, solar, and clean coal would do more to improve our national security than anything else. I've been working for years as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to enact policies that help the United States achieve energy independence. We've had some significant successes, but there's clearly more to do.