In an increasingly interconnected world, an active, realistic, and effective foreign policy is more important than ever. I firmly believe that our prosperity increasingly depends on the United States being a leader in the world as we work with our friends and allies to solve complex problems and take advantage of new opportunities. Our nation cannot afford to pull back from the international community on economic, diplomatic, or security matters.
I am working to create a new trade policy for the United States that will shape globalization and help ensure that its benefits are more broadly shared, both here at home and around the world. But broadly shared prosperity also requires us to assist our neighbors in the international community as they work to build strong, democratic societies.
An Exit Plan for Afghanistan
The United States has been engaged in the war in Afghanistan since 2011, making it the longest military conflict in our history. Over this period of time, U.S. and coalition forces have largely defeated the al Qaeda threat that planned the 9/11 attacks on the United States and have made great strides in building up the Afghan National Security Forces. With the death of Osama bin Laden, we are now in a position to complete this mission and hand over responsibility to the Afghan people for their own security and government.
President Obama has announced that the United States will withdraw 34,000 American troops from Afghanistan by February 2014, decreasing the number of U.S. troops in that country by half. I support this step to bring this war to a responsible close.
After 2014, I believe the United States should commit to a long-term strategic partnership with the Afghan Government and the Afghan people. This includes supporting Afghanistan’s social and economic development, security, and promoting regional cooperation. The international community cannot repeat historical mistakes and abandon Afghanistan—a decision that could allow that country to once again become a safe haven for extremists.
Promoting Peace and Security in the Middle East
There are fundamental changes underway in the Middle East, and these are critical times for millions of people in countries throughout the region, as well as for us as Americans, and for our ally, Israel. As we witness a difficult struggle to establish democracy in the region, we must work to ensure U.S. foreign policy interests are protected. I support the Obama Administration’s efforts to promote democracy, ensure more open and transparent societies, and create lasting security in the region.
One of the most significant threats to our national security and security in the region is the development of Iran’s nuclear program. A nuclear Iran would rattle an already unstable Middle East and pose direct danger to the safety of Israel, our most important ally in the region.
I have worked to address this threat, of a nuclear Iran for many years. In the 111th Congress, I worked closely with former Rep. Howard Berman, then Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to target any financial backing to Iran’s energy sector. The Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act [P.L. 111-195], imposed sanctions on any person or business who assists Iran’s efforts to acquire refined petroleum. Such actions include financial investments, shipping petroleum, or providing machinery to undertake enrichment efforts. More recently, in response to Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons technology, I supported bipartisan efforts in the 112th Congress to expand sanctions to cover additional sectors of the Iranian economy and the Iranian Central Bank as well as to target human rights abusers.
I support the Obama Administration’s multifaceted Iran strategy, which combines diplomatic pressure with crippling sanctions, backed by the credible threat of military force as a last resort. This approach has won the critical support of the international community, including the European Union and the United Nations, which have instituted comprehensive sanctions of their own. Effectively enforced sanctions with broad international support are the best way to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress and the Administration toward that goal.
Development and Humanitarian Assistance
As a former Assistant Administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development, I recognize how helping other countries build stronger economies and reduce poverty is important to our own prosperity and security. Humanitarian and economic development assistance reinforce America’s role as a world leader, promote democracy and stability, and create new markets for our goods and services. From the Marshall Plan after World War II to the Millennium Challenge Corporation today, Americans have long understood that when we help our neighbors, we create a stronger and safer international community.
Recent years have provided vivid examples for the importance of U.S. assistance, particularly when natural disasters strike. For instance, when a devastating earthquake shattered Haiti’s economy in 2010, the least developed country in the Western Hemisphere was extremely vulnerable. Once the earthquake hit, it became clear that something needed to be done to help our southern neighbor Haiti.
Along with Reps. Rangel and Camp, I co-introduced The Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act, aimed to help speed Haiti’s economic recovery by expanding duty-free access to the U.S. market for additional Haitian textile and apparel exports and extending existing trade preference programs for Haiti through 2020.
Global Health and HIV/AIDS
I strongly support our nation’s efforts to fight the spread of deadly infectious diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Globally, AIDS has been the leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 59 since 2002. An estimated 34 million people are currently living with HIV and an estimated 1.7 million people died of AIDS in 2011, the most recent year with available data. Approximately 1.4 million people die of tuberculosis each year. Every 30 seconds, a child dies from malaria, making it the largest killer of children in Africa.
We must stop the epidemics of HIV, TB, and malaria. Our long-term prosperity and security are inextricably linked to our commitment to help build stronger economies and reduce poverty around the world. Promoting public health is a critical component of this effort. Disease cripples not only individuals, but economies as well, preventing parents from supporting their families and leaving children orphaned with no financial security, limited opportunities for education, and narrow prospects for the future.
As a member of the bi-partisan global Health Caucus, I am working with my colleagues to fight the challenges these diseases present. I am also a supporter of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and of robust U.S. support for the multilateral Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
(Updated April 24, 2013)