Click Here for Episode on Vox’s Worldly Podcast
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Thursday joined Vox’s Worldly podcast for a conversation about Syria, Ukraine and progressive foreign policy.
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 proposed this new framework for progressive foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. In this speech, Murphy discussed four concrete ideas for how progressives can close the perceived national security gap with Republicans and maintain America’s role in the world. 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.
This week, Murphy gave a speech on the U.S. Senate Floor in which he addressed the global scope of the damage Trump’s foreign policy is causing and asked why the Republican party is so keen on protecting him. Murphy surveyed the world—from Ukraine, to Syria, and Venezuela—to show that every corner of the world is less safe since Trump took office.
Excerpts from the podcast episode can be found below.
On Trump’s Decision to Pull Troops Out of Syria:
MURPHY: “It's absolutely diabolical. I don't know that we've seen a double cross like this, at least in recent American foreign policy history. The aftermath of this is hard to understand. Obviously, we have a humanitarian catastrophe playing out in front of our eyes right now. We've pushed the Kurds into the hands of Bashar Al Assad and if Congress moves forward with sanctions, that the Trump administration has already begun to implement, we are going to push Turkey further into an axis with Russia and Iran. The three of them will be empowered along with ISIS, who will be allowed to reconstitute as fighters escape detainment. But also, we take the foot off of the proverbial pedal when it comes to the anti ISIS offensive. It's all bad news for us in the region right now.
“In the long run, it ruins our credibility as a partner. Who's going to be willing to sign up to fight terrorism with the United States if they're subject to this kind of treatment? And of course, it's all so tragic because it was avoidable. Trump has been telegraphing, he wanted to take our troops out for years. If that was the case, then he should have been doing the diplomatic and political work in northeast Syria to try to come up with a governance structure in which you could have Kurdish control of that region in a way that Turkey could live with. That was difficult but not impossible and the fact that the Trump administration didn't even try to work out a political solution makes this moment so hard to comprehend.”
On Turkey Sanctions and NATO:
MURPHY: “[O]ne of my worries is that in our anger over what Trump did to the Kurds, we are going to essentially answer that question by default. By leveling such crippling sanctions on Turkey, that we effectively end our security partnership with them. We do have a security partnership with them. We have very powerful weapons that are at our disposal inside Turkey. We do cooperate on many anti-terrorism initiatives. They do contribute dollars and forces to NATO missions. So there are important strategic alliances between us.
“But I would rather us be able to step back and make a decision thoughtfully about whether Turkey should be inside or outside of NATO, rather than making that decision because we are angry equally at Trump and Turkey at the same time. [Turkey’s status] is questionable and it's more questionable than anyone else in the NATO Alliance, but we also have to admit that there are plenty of times in which American policy has been at odds with other NATO allies. There are other members of this alliance that have not followed us into battle overseas, that have openly disagreed with the decisions that we've made on important strategic questions to the United States. So, we have to admit that the alliance is never one in which you have to unconditionally agree with the United States position on every issue. The Turks have gotten pretty far afield at this point, which requires us to step back and ask some tough questions.”
On Progressive Foreign Policy:
MURPHY: “I see progressive foreign policy as anchored in the idea that America does have a role to play for good in the world. So progressive foreign policy is not about drawing back and is not about seeing restraint as the rule to which there are exceptions. I think it has to be about deploying different kinds of assets other than the United States military. Right now, that's the only card that we have to play in most places around the world.
“What I've argued for, and I wrote this down in a piece for The Atlantic a couple of weeks ago, is that Democratic presidential candidates—especially those who fancy themselves as progressive - need to not just be talking about a different philosophy than Trump but need to be talking about different capabilities.
“Take, for instance, Syria. What we're missing is this hybrid class of diplomat warriors, diplomats who either can protect themselves or have protection attached to them, who could be in conflict zones, actually working out the political problems on the ground in a way that 19 year old Marines just can't. If we had those capabilities in northeast Syria, we might never have arrived at this moment today. I talk about the fact that we have to have tests for military action, that it
'd be done through overt rather than covert means, that it be only done with congressional oversight and approval, that we know if we're putting military resources on the ground that we're solving a military problem, not a political problem; all tests that we would have failed in Syria, had we asked them back at the late stages of the Obama administration.
“So I think it's all about more rigorous tests for military action, developing a suite of pro-democracy, pro-human rights tools around the world that we simply don't have today. And, then allowing a democratic and progressive president to be internationalist, but just with different options to play, different cards to play other than brigades.”
On U.S. Global Leadership:
MURPHY: “I think we need to remain a global leader. And I think the only way that we remain a global leader is to dramatically plus up our democracy promotion tools, our human rights tools, our energy independence tools, our anti-corruption tools, our anti propaganda tools. I think we have an obligation to protect our own democracy, but we also have a role to play as still the world's strongest and most powerful nation. And so I think that we absolutely should aspire to be a command presence in the world, but we should do it in a different way that we are today. And I think the tools I'm talking about are also much more nimble, and much less likely to get the United States involved into quagmires, from which we cannot remove ourselves.”
On Budgeting Progressive Foreign Policy:
MURPHY: “So I double the non-military national security budget and I've got a blueprint to do that. You can go online to find Rethinking the Battlefield—it’s a detailed proposal to add all these capacities that I'm talking about. So I would double the foreign policy budget that's not housed in the military.
“Two, I would dramatically scale back our covert military programs. I just think that the secret training of rebel armies and the drone campaigns that end up hitting 5% of the intended targets are doing America more harm than good. I would dramatically throttle those back. And then I would make a big investment in multilateral institutions, both on the military and non-military side. I make the argument in my piece, that progressive foreign policy should invest in military multilateralism just like we invest in humanitarian multilateralism. I would put, sort of, life back in NATO and look to open it to newcomers as long as they played by our values system.
“So reinforced strategic alliances, throttle back covert military programming, double the size of the non-military national security budget, that would be a good place and not an unrealistic place to start. Remember, doubling the budget of the State Department/USAID is equal to about one year of increases to the Department of Defense on our current spending trajectory.”