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.
The world today faces many changes that require our leadership. 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 and democratic societies.
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.
We have accomplished a great deal in Afghanistan: According to the latest data from UNICEF (2012), in just a decade, life expectancy in Afghanistan has increased by 11 years and child mortality has decreased by 26 percent since 2000. Girls can go to school now and education is taking root, including an inspiring American University in Kabul. The economic life of the country is far stronger than it had been under the Taliban. The Afghan security forces have successfully responded to Taliban attacks and safeguarded two rounds of elections. Since the appointment of the unity government in September 2014, the Afghan people now have a chance to build a cohesive government that rejects extremisms and sectarianism. We need to continue our support of these advances, and continue to provide the resources needed to build a stable, secure, and prosperous country through long-term partnerships 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.
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. In the 112th Congress, in response to Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons technology, I supported bipartisan efforts to expand sanctions to cover additional sectors of the Iranian economy and the Iranian Central Bank as well as to target human rights abusers.
We must ensure that the 2014 nuclear negotiations with Iran are meaningful. 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.
As a co-chair of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, I believe it is important we help the Ukrainian people build a free and democratic country. The 2013 protests in Maidan Square and the October 2014 parliamentary elections have shown the world the Ukrainian people’s resolve to build their own future.
This past year, together with fellow Congressional Ukrainian Caucus Co-chairs, I introduced the Ukraine Security Assistance Act of 2014 to authorize the President to work with the Government of Ukraine to assess that country’s military, intelligence, and security needs and provide adequate and necessary assistance to protect Ukrainian democracy and sovereignty. The legislation would provide a clear and specific process to provide direct military and security assistance to the Government of Ukraine as it seeks to strengthen its democracy and prevent separatist violence and aggression within its borders.
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.
In August 2014, I also cosponsored House Resolution 683 which condemned the violent attacks on innocent Iraqi civilians and religious minorities by armed extremists and called on the State to work with the Kurdistan Regional government, the Iraqi government, and the diaspora community in the United States to help secure safe havens for those claiming amnesty in Iraq.
Global Health and HIV/AIDS
I strongly support our nation’s efforts to fight the spread of deadly infectious diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and Ebola. 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 Oct. 29, 2014)