Challenging Trump, Murphy Pitches His Own Foreign Policy

Hartford Courant

Sen. Chris Murphy proposed his own foreign policy strategy Monday that stands in stark contrast to President Donald Trump's foreign affairs budget.

While Trump's proposed budget calls for a $54 billion increase in defense spending, and cuts United States Agency for International Development and Department of State funding by almost a third, Murphy's plan calls for an additional $50 billion in nonmilitary security funding over five years.

Murphy, who has been suggested as a possible candidate for president in 2020, did not offer a plan for paying for his new strategy.

"A strong American military is still vital to guard against conventional security threats, but the emerging threats to global stability exert influence that cannot be checked with military power alone, Murphy said.

Murphy made his announcement in Washington, D.C., to the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank, and took questions from the audience. Sam Feist, Washington bureau chief and senior vice president of CNN, moderated the event.

Murphy used the recent U.S. airstrikes in Syria to frame support for his plan.

"My proposal is centered around giving presidents the nonmilitary tools to stop something like a Syrian civil war before it happens and then to extinguish the flames if a fire starts," Murphy said in an interview with The Courant.

The attack showed the U.S. military "at its most impressive," Murphy said. "We're very good at doing things like sending cruise missiles [to] an air base in the Middle East" but much worse at tackling the underlying issues before they fester, he said.

"Syria is just as big a mess today as it was on Wednesday," he said, referencing the strikes on Thursday. "Why? Because neither the root of the crisis in Syria, nor the way out, are rooted in problems that cruise missiles can solve. The way in, and the way out — it's political. It's cultural. It's social. It's economic."

The way to tackle these issues, Murphy proposed, is by ramping up development funding — for the State Department, USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Peace Corps, among other government programs that provide economic, development and humanitarian support, while keeping defense spending the same.

One of the main tenets of Murphy's report is the adoption of a new Marshall Plan — the American-led initiative that helped rebuild Europe after WWII. The success of the Marshall Plan "wasn't an accident," Murphy said, and the goal of a modern version of it would be to "build stability in places where current instability breeds extremism," Murphy said.

"Spending money on building stability is a great national security investment, and it's never been more in need than today," Murphy said. "And we cannot continue playing the role of global fire department, responding to crises only after they've developed into four-alarm blazes."

Murphy acknowledged there's not enough support in Congress for his plan. But he said there is bipartisan support for a plan like it — one that focuses on increasing American commitment to diplomacy alongside military defense, he said.

"We might not ultimately have Republican support for the massive increases I'm talking about, but we have lots of Republicans who know how devastating a 30 percent cut would be," Murphy said.

Murphy is scheduled to bring his plan to the Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut Tuesday at 7 p.m.