WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Monday joined the Hudson Institute’s speaker series: “Dialogues on American Foreign Policy and World Affairs” for a moderated conversation with Walter Russell Mead.

Murphy recently penned a piece for the Atlantic in which he makes the case that a new Democratic administration needs a new foreign policy toolkit to advance our values and interests abroad. Murphy discussed this framework most recently with Vox’s Worldly podcast. In 2015, Murphy authored “Rethinking the Battlefield,” a comprehensive road map for rebuilding our foreign policy in order to keep pace with the global challenges we face.

Excerpts of Murphy’s Q&A with Mead are below:

On Recapturing Momentum in Congress on Foreign Policy:

“…so much of what ails American foreign policy today is a lack of capabilities. We say Russia acts asymmetrically, because we don't have anything to meet what they're doing to use their energy resources to bully neighbors or run RT 24-hours in countries around the world. So, Congress could just decide to create new capacities. Now we wouldn't manage those new capacities, but if we gave them to the executive it would be better than what we have today.

“We did this, for instance, in a very small way a few years ago, when Senator Rob Portman and I wrote a piece of legislation establishing a new counter propaganda operation at the State Department. Now, it's relatively meager in scope and size, it’s $60 million. But for the first time the State Department had to sort of think about what they would do if they really want it to be present in fighting the information wars in and around Russia. And they stood up capacity to do that. Congress could do that. We've got legislation now pending to stand up a $1 billion energy independence fund, which could actually get our government in the business of spending money to help countries become energy independent of places like Russia, rather than just giving advice on how to do it. So, you know, Congress could actually create that new toolkit that I've been talking about for years.”

On Adapting our Capabilities to 21st Century Threats:

“My critique on Syria, is that, you know, 2,000 Marines or soldiers really weren't going to do the trick in a place that needed diplomats and political help to try to figure out how to create a governance structure in northeast Syria that the Arabs, the Kurds and the Turks could all live with. And so, you've got to create the ability for diplomats to get to places that they didn't use to get to before. So, it's about flexibility. It's about new capabilities. It's about new funding.”

On State Department Structure:

“It's not an easy assignment to go to a place that's incredibly difficult, but nobody signs up for these jobs understanding that it's going to be easy. I mean, the structure of our assignments for the State Department, frankly, has not changed in decades. When it was a bi-polar world in which you just sort of had to understand the basics of how you argued against Soviet expansion and for American expansion, you weren't dealing with all sorts of contestants that were vying for space. Maybe short-term deployments made more sense.

“But today, you know, by the time you learn Afghanistan, you're 10 months into a one-year turnaround time. And again, once again, very quietly, the Department of Defense has started to think about how to how to deal with that. So yes, you know, the young soldiers go into these places and come back out in about a year, but special operators don’t. Special operators have expertise in parts of the world and they stick around, below the radar screen, but long enough so that they develop contacts and an ability to understand the nuances of places. The State Department needs to catch up.”

On Anti-Corruption Efforts:

“Go into any of these embassies today you are going to find a handful of political officers who are charged with doing a whole ton of things, one of which is running anti-corruption programming. And so why not recognize that this is a real life daily tool of all sorts of countries, not just the Russians, and create a classification of foreign policy officers dedicated only to corruption. Why not spend more money on funding anti-corruption projects?”

On Balancing Values versus Interests in Foreign Policy:

“[W]e have to see democracy promotion or the advancement of human rights as a critical U.S. interest today. I believe as dictators get more nimble and stronger overseas, it may ultimately give more ideas to folks in the United States who might want to go about the process of converting our government into something that looks very different than what we have today.


“I think Saudi is just an example of a country that has crossed that line. I think they have crossed the line to which our signal in continuing and fairly no questions asked alliance, is an invitation to other nations to engage in that similar behavior, which I think ultimately is a risk to us.”


“If you view your concerns about human rights and democracy promotion together with your concerns about other more conventional security interests, then you can balance one against the other. So I don't think that progressives should adopt a framework in which we say to countries that don't share our values on democracy and human rights, that you're never going to be a partner with the United States. I think we just maybe have a higher bar for your behaviors in in other contexts, if you're not meeting our asks on those other issues.”

On Status of North Korea Negotiations:

“I think that Kim has gotten a lot out of this relationship, thus far. He gets almost a complete pass on the treatment of his own people and the projection of cyber warfare on the U.S. shores. By this focus on showy a photo op after showy photo op, it has maybe gotten us less testing over the course of the last two and a half years than we've gotten in the past. But there's all sorts of other evidence to suggest he continues to move forward with the development of his program.”