WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Wednesday gave remarks at the Center for American Progress to make the case that there is no corner of the globe that has been made safer after nearly three years of the Trump administration’s foreign policy. In his speech, Murphy stepped back from the headline-grabbing crises in Syria and Ukraine to survey the damage Trump’s foreign policy has had on the world.
“We are watching American national security policy go completely and fully off the rails—everywhere. Our global reputation, our credibility, has been shattered to pieces and no one knows whether it can reassembled,” Murphy said. “Our nation's defenses have never been weaker, our enemies are gathering strength by the day, concern for what America thinks is waning.”
“Everything that this administration has touched, has gotten worse. And here's the scariest part: this president and this administration might still have 14 more months to do even more damage,” Murphy concluded.
For years, Murphy has focused on how progressives can close the perceived national security gap with Republicans and strengthen America’s role in the world. This month, he 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 and at a speech this week at the Hudson Institute. 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.
Full transcript of Murphy’s opening remarks is below:
“[T]hank you very much Neera. Thank you to all of my friends here at CAP, especially those who work in the national security space, looking forward to joining Kelly up on stage and taking some of your questions in a moment.
“Listen, the most important, the most sacred responsibility that a president of the United States has is to keep America safe. Everything else that we care about as citizens of this great nation, it matters very little if our physical safety and the safety of our loved ones isn't assured. That's job number one of the President of the United States.
“Now, listen, I believe that the president has likely committed offenses that are worthy of impeachment. In the wake of Bill Taylor's stunning testimony yesterday, I think it's become increasingly clear that the president has engaged in a disqualifying breach of trust with the citizens he serves. Now obviously, we need to wait for the Articles of Impeachment, if they do arrive in the Senate, before anybody can make their decision in my chamber on removal, but the publicly stipulated facts already surrounding the president's shadow foreign policy, designed not to advance the national interest but his own personal political interests—they are damning.
“So far, my Republican friends have rallied to the president's side by-and-large, despite public opinion, moving pretty quickly against the president and favor of an inquiry in the House. And so today, I want to take some time to elucidate the costs to the physical safety of the nation as Republicans continue to protect the president from the consequences of his misdeeds.
“Now, Ukraine and Syria do get all of the attention today for good reason. But the scope of our foreign policy dysfunction, as we sit here today, is truly breathtaking in scope and it's frightening in the danger that it presents to the safety of Americans.
“We're watching American national security policy go fully and completely off the rails everywhere. Our global reputation, our credibility, it's been shattered to pieces and nobody knows whether it can be resemble. Our nation's defenses have never been weaker; our enemies are gathering strength by the day; concern for what America thinks around the world is waning.
“Now right now before our eyes, American power is in potentially irreversible freefall and our nation’s safety is a risk. American citizens, they're looking to the Senate for leadership. But when they lift up the hood on my institution, they're looking for steely eyed patriots and all they're finding is blind partisans.
“What's the cost, I asked my colleagues, of letting America slide into global irrelevance? How many American lives are going to be lost ultimately, because Republicans sat on the sideline and let American influence fade as our president becomes a toxic commodity, the butt of jokes, an international pariah. What must it take for the United States Senate to put aside party and come together to salvage our shrinking American security?
“So to understand the real scope of the damage that's been done, outside of the daily headlines, I want to step away from those headlines for just a few moments this afternoon—this morning, excuse me—and take you on a tour of the world for the next 15 to 20 minutes so that you can understand just how sweeping the damage has been to our national security interests.
"Now to get in all of the catastrophes that Trump has created, I'm going to have to move fast. I'm going to jump from one corner of the world to the other, and I hope everybody can keep up.
“Let's start by getting the headline making crises out of the way. The power of the American executive branch—it has no equal. There's no individual in the world who has more power than Donald Trump has today. And with that power comes responsibility—comes with guardrails. One firm promise that the president must make to those that he governs is not to use the power of the Oval Office for his personal or financial interests.
“But it is now clear—beyond a reasonable doubt, after all this testimony, much of it from Republicans—that President Trump has turned our support for Ukraine into a personal poker chip to be cashed in, in order to get Ukraine to help him destroy his political rivals. This just isn't allowed in a democracy. But the damage done by Trump's corruption of the Ukraine relationship, it's far beyond this broken covenant with the American people. He pulled essential assistance to Ukraine just when their new president needed U.S. support the most.
“And Russia received the message. They will act more aggressively towards Ukraine because they now know that the U.S. interest in Ukraine isn't Ukraine's sovereignty. It's the perpetuation of Trump’s personal grudges. Our support for Ukraine was, of course really about a message sending exercise regarding the sanctity of borders. That message is now compromised, and other countries contemplating aggressive moves have noticed that America has blinked.
“Now Syria is the other narrative that dominates the news channels today—a place where the president is engaged in one of the worst, most abominable acts of double-cross in the history of the American presidency. We convinced the Kurdish military to fight ISIS for us. We convinced them to take down their defenses against a potential Kurdish invasion. And in return, we promised to protect them.
“And then out of nowhere, a week and a half ago, Trump stabbed the Kurds in the back. He announced the pullback of our forces and invited, by press release, the Turkish army to march into Syria and destroy our ally, the Kurds. Then he totally validated the Turkish invasion with a ceasefire deal that frankly gives Turkey everything they want and just sows the seeds of more conflict.
“The damage to our nation security done by this one single act is almost too comprehensive to list in one speech. ISIS detainees have escaped their jail cells and are now like reconstituting and possibly planning new attacks against the United States. Now they can plot without fear of interruption because the Kurds have ended their fight against ISIS—they’re just trying to survive the Turkish offensive.
“The list of global players who have become stronger because of Trump's decision are a murderers row of U.S. adversaries: Russia, Iran, Bashar Al Assad. It's a nightmare in Syria today for U.S. national security interests and it's going to get much worse before it gets better.
“Now the Ukraine and Syria fiascos have meant that everyone has already forgotten the mind blowing screw up where Trump single handedly destroyed the Afghanistan peace talks. Trump's negotiators had conducted delicate negotiations with the Taliban for months, only to see Trump, in one tweet, blow it all up.
“The peace agreement that had been drafted with the Taliban could have been an isolated success story for Trump, but he threw it all away because of the photo-op with the Taliban and President Ghani at Camp David that he wanted, it was more important to him than the actual deal and when it didn't materialize, he walked away from the entire project.
“That's bananas. And we've already moved on because the stuff that's happening now is somehow even more cataclysmic. But in one fell swoop Trump—he cut the legs out from under our partners in the Afghan government; he injected a new level of chaos in Afghan politics; he legitimize the Taliban without actually getting them to make any peace concessions. His Camp David bait and switch makes it more likely that the Taliban, the group that harbored the 9/11 terrorists, will continue to ascend in Afghanistan and that's horrible for our national security interests.
“Let's move to China for a second where president-for-life Xi has steadily been consolidating power, building a model of totalitarian control that denies basic rights to its population of 1.4 billion. The United States has watched from the sidelines, as China not only conducts cultural genocide against its Muslim Uighur population. But we've watched from the sidelines as China grows its global clout and exports its model of surveillance and oppression around the world. We've watched from the sidelines as China's military continues to gain strength and push their unlawful territorial claims in the western Pacific, compromising the potential future freedom of navigation. We've watched from the sidelines as their Belt and Road Initiative is forging linkages across the globe, building a foundation for long-term technological, economic, and strategic dominance. We've watched all this and Trump has done nothing.
“Why? Because the sum total of our bilateral interactions with China under Trump has been a bungled, disastrous, job-killing trade war. It's a trade war that literally only made sense in Trump's mind and his campaign speeches, but it never had a chance to succeed without potential partners that the president never tried to enlist.
“Every single day, Trump is losing this trade worth badly. Our trade deficit with China isn't going down, it's going up. The tariffs on Chinese imports, they're going to cost middle class consumers about $1,000 a year according to some reports. Our economy slowed down and we may lose 300,000 jobs because of this trade war. It's an unmitigated economic disaster for our nation, and this nightmare, like all others, seems to be getting worse.
“Now, with the exception of the Uighurs, nowhere in China's heavy-handed repression campaign have things been worse than in Hong Kong. And yet again, we have been totally absent.
“In Hong Kong, brave, pro-democracy protesters should be seen as America's best friends. Chinese people are risking everything to fight for basic freedoms. There's no better way to undermine China's unfair trade model than to promote the rights of its consumers and citizens. But Trump promised the Chinese regime that he would offer no support for the Hong Kong protesters—an unconscionable promise that he's kept while China runs circles around him on trade talks.
“Right up the road in Asia is perhaps the most immediate and terrifying existential threat, a nuclear armed homicidal dictator with the capacity and willingness to nuke us and our allies in the region: in North Korea. A lot of ink has been spilled on the pomp and circumstance of Trump's summits and the ongoing love-affair that he claims with Kim Jong Un. But what has actually been the result of nearly three years of Trump's North Korean diplomacy besides stroking Trump's ego? The answer is nothing.
“Kim continues to fire missiles into the Sea of Japan. He continues to quietly build up his nuclear stockpile. Meanwhile, we abandoned the South Koreans. We canceled our joint military exercises. We nearly withdrew our troops entirely. Kim got international recognition and essentially a free pass to keep building his arsenal and making it more deadly, while we weakened all of our regional alliances. America and the world are dramatically less safe now.
“Now all over the world dictators like Kim, and would-be dictators, they're racking up stunning records of human rights abuses right now because they know that under President Trump, America’s really going to raise no issue—no protest.
“In the Philippines, for instance, there’ve been 20,000 people vanished in extrajudicial massacres by President Duterte. No protest from the United States as 20,000 people have disappeared. Thousands of political dissidents are being locked up in places like Turkey and Egypt and Saudi Arabia. These are supposed to U.S. allies, and these political prisoners have no one to speak for them because America now doesn't do anything about civil rights or human rights. We disappeared from the human rights playing field.
“In Saudi Arabia in fact, their leadership felt so emboldened by Trump's embrace of brutal, strong men that they kidnapped an American resident who was critical of the Saudi regime. They chopped him to pieces and then they got rid of his body parts. The response from the United States to Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was to visit Riyadh. The American Secretary of State went there for a smiling photo-op to make sure that every foreign leader in every corner of the world recognized that human rights abuses would be forgiven pretty immediately by this new American regime.
“Elsewhere in the Middle East, things are falling apart fast, due mostly to the Trump administration's incompetence. It started with his nonsensical fracture of relations between Saudi Arabia and another key U.S. Gulf ally, Qatar. It was the kind of disruption that frankly would normally be papered over and fixed by a competent U.S. administration probably in days. But three years later, these two countries, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, still aren't talking, largely because we did nothing to fix it. Making matters worse, Saudi Arabia and their remaining stable friend in the region, the UAE, they're not getting along now either.
“Now, these would normally be rifts that a U.S. administration could heal very quickly. But now these hyper wealthy Gulf powers, fractured from each other, will be more likely to fight proxy wars against each other in places like Syria or Lebanon or Libya, creating more civil conflict in dangerous places to the United States.
“Now, the Saudis and UAE fell out because Trump has allowed the Yemen [war] to rage out of control for so long that events on the ground have become so chaotic that the anti-Houthi coalition, it just is coming apart at the seams. But that's not even the worst about Yemen for our national security interest. Trump has basically refused to use America's diplomatic muscle to put an end to the conflict, despite the parties begging for the United States to do just that. And instead, he's just piled more weapons and more bombs into the conflict.
“The result is tens of thousands of innocent Yemenis, many of them little children, dead, and young Yemenis being radicalized against the United States. Now that's especially scary because the war has allowed ISIS and Al Qaeda in Yemen to grow in strength and now they have ample recruits to join their anti-American crusades.
“Iran, the patron of the Houthis, has been empowered in Yemen too as our coalition falls apart and the war pushes the Houthis closer to Tehran. But of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how badly our Iran policy has failed.
“Every one of the President's national security advisors told him to stay in the nuclear agreement. Trump ignored all of his advisors, like he's ignored all the rest of the counsel that he's received on major foreign policy matters. He canceled the agreement and he implemented a series of unilateral sanctions coordinated with no one.
“Iran feeling cornered, but also not feeling particularly vulnerable given the fact that America couldn't recruit any of our friends to the new anti-Iran campaign—they hit back against oil tankers, American drones, Saudi pipelines. We now seem perpetually on the precipice of war with Iran. And meanwhile, they’ve restarted portions of their shuttered nuclear program. We haven't convinced a single nation to join us in new sanctions, and there's absolutely no chance that Trump is going to secure a better deal than the JCPOA before he leaves office in a year. Iran is a bigger menace than it was before he took office.
“And they just scored another big victory with Trump's abandonment of the Kurds since their ally Assad is going to take the place of the United States as the protector of the Kurds. That gives Iran access to more parts of Syria.
“Now in the very tumultuous region of the Middle East right now, the only leader that is happy with Trump's dangerous, bizarre non-strategy on Iran, has been Benjamin Netanyahu. But it looks like he is now on his way out of office. His allegiance with Trump has left his successor a frightening legacy.
“Under Trump's watch, the two-state solution in Israel—a longtime, bipartisan lynchpin of American policy in the Middle East—it's effectively fallen apart. Trump has allowed Israel to take steps that make a future Palestinian state almost impossible. And for three years, he's put his son in law, who’s only experienced was using his father's money to buy real estate, in charge of brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It was a joke, and everybody knew it. But since Trump was president, everybody had to play along. Now there's no peace plan. There's never [going to] be a peace plan. And the chances for one are almost non-existent after three years of the Trump administration.
“In Libya, Trump admittedly inherited a pretty miserable situation, but somehow like everything else, he managed to make it worse. The country has been fractured for years, as rival militias with a host of foreign patrons have been fighting a civil war that's created a vacuum that's been filled by the kind of extremists that want to do damage to the United States.
“But instead of doing the hard work of diplomacy, to try to get the warring parties back to the table, Trump made a phone call pledging his personal support to General Haftar, upending years of American diplomacy and endorsing the General’s plan to try to take Tripoli by force. As a result, fighting there continues, peace talks are failing, and the humanitarian crisis grows by the day.
“Now, one of the consequences of this Trump death spiral in Libya and the Middle East is that the economic and political refugees from those places continue to flow into Europe, which simply isn't politically ready to accept this rate of inflow. And by slashing the number of refugees that the United States takes from 100,000 down to 18,000, we've communicated to the Europeans that we have no interest in helping.
“But just like everything else, Trump has made the assimilation of Muslim immigrants into Europe even harder by setting up this model for racist xenophobic demagogues and right wing nationalist political parties who want to bring Trump's form of political nativism into Europe. Nationalist political parties are on the rise all over the West and Trump is absolutely central to their development. He gravitates not towards Angela Merkel, whose courageous leadership has helped keep the EU together, but to Viktor Orbán who stokes the embers of nationalism to take Hungary down a dark path.
“Trump and his nationalist compatriots, they weaponize fears of immigration and cultural change to justify really bad policies. When right-wing groups try to copy Trump's success and deploy playbooks in their country all throughout Europe, he doesn't stand up and object as the leader of the free world should. He offers a wink and a nod—sometimes a warm embrace. That destabilizes Europe.
“Now he doesn't stop there from trying to undermine European democracy. He's carried out a systematic, purposeful campaign to weaken the European Union and NATO.
“By now we've kind of all, you know, grown used to Trump's attacks on globalism, but it is still pretty extraordinary that we have a president who doesn't just attack the specific institutions that he loathes, like the UN or the EU or NATO. He levels regular broadsides against the entire concept of global cooperation. He sees multi-lateralism as weakness and he's cheerleading to get Britain out the door of the EU, constantly attacking NATO, even to the point of wondering out loud whether the United States would defend NATO allies if attacked.
“In doing all this, he risks taking down the entire post World War II order. That would be a disaster if NATO fell apart and a gift to countries like China and Russia and India, non-state actors like Al Qaeda and ISIS. And remember the only time that NATO’s mutual defense clause has been operationalized, it was in defense of the United States, why would we give that up?
“Now, of course, when it comes to our relations with Europe, Trump reserves his greatest multilateral animus for global attempts to address climate change. The Paris Agreement wasn't even a binding commitment on the United States. But Trump felt so strongly that climate change was a hoax that he pulled us out of the agreement in a big grand festival at the White House. Now, climate change—this catastrophe is coming if we don't do anything, in fact, it's already here. Go back to Syria for a minute, the story of their descent into madness can partially be told through a series of successive global warming connected droughts that forced farmers into overcrowded cities that simply weren't ready for these population surges.
“Trump's hostility to climate action is one of his most unforgivable legacies and the next president may not have enough time, or enough political capital to try to make up for the ground we've lost—especially with our European partners.
“Now speaking about the failure to capitalize on opportunity, in our hemisphere, things couldn't be going much worse. Here in the Americas, basically everything Trump touches has falling apart and the U.S. is weaker regionally than ever before. His nativism is his political calling card but his own policies seem to encourage more migration to the United States, not less of it. His decision to cut-off foreign assistance to Central American countries because they weren't doing enough to stop migration is lunacy. President Obama's program of investing in Central American security, so that less citizens feel the need to flee to America, was beginning to work, and Trump gave it all away simply to provide fuel to his domestic political agenda.
“U.S.-Venezuela policy: it's one of the few times that Trump's presidency actually stood up to a dictator. Unfortunately, because President Trump doesn't know how to do foreign policy, he botched that intervention too. It's been really embarrassing to watch this administration repeatedly and wrongly claim that the Maduro regime is on the verge of collapse. They did it in January, when Juan Guaidó swore himself in as interim president. They did it again in February when they said, deploying American aid along the border would trigger the regime’s fall. They did it again in April, in the lead up to a military uprising that went nowhere. The White House is regularly engaged in tough talk on Venezuela only to see Maduro’s hold on power endure.
“Trump played all his cards in this crisis, right in the first few days, like a nervous teenager, and now we're left sanctioning the Venezuelan people and recognizing the leader of a country who really isn't the leader of that country. It's just another failure that makes us look weak and foolish. We make a play and we can't back it up. It's hard to be scared of the United States these days when everything we try to do goes wrong.
“And finally, let me end implausibly, with Denmark. Trump’s tiff with Denmark is important. It is. But by itself, it tragically wouldn't even make this list of Trump’s biggest foreign policy mistakes because there are so many bigger ones. But I end with Denmark because it’s a symbol of all of the small but significant screw ups that we couldn't even fit into this speech.
“It's like out of an episode of The Simpsons—Trump canceling a diplomatic meeting with Denmark's leader because they wouldn't agree to sell him the island of Greenland. And it's the butt of jokes, I get that, but giving the middle finger to Denmark, it doesn't come without costs.
“Denmark's one of our strongest NATO allies. At the height of the war in Afghanistan, they had the highest number of troops per capita fighting alongside us. They hold the key to blocking the Russian gas pipeline that could avoid damage to Ukraine's economy. But now we've managed to make even Denmark an adversary.
“Now, I know this sounds implausible, but this is list is really just the tip of the iceberg. It's a policy massacre everywhere. The world is on fire and in most places Trump is the arsonist. And meanwhile, whose benefiting? Across the board, America's enemies and our competitors, they are rubbing their hands with delight as we score own goal after own goal. Putin, Xi, Erdogan, Kim, the hardliners in Iran—they could not have scripted a better opportunity for themselves to gain power and influence at our expense.
“I say the Trump
's foreign policy is a global joke, but calling what he does policy is probably unfair.
“He doesn't take the time to learn about the world. He doesn't read his briefings. He makes it up day by day with his personal political priorities, his jealousies, his headline addiction guiding his decisions rather than anything connected to our actual national security interests. Our foreign policy is in utter, complete, total meltdown and it's time for all of us in the United States Congress to face facts.
“You can't impeach a president because you disagree with his or her policy. But this is beyond a policy disagreement. This is a president who has compromised our nation's integrity and our credibility, who was put in jeopardy the safety of our citizens—especially with the disclosures this week as ISIS breaks out of the detainment and looks to regroup to threaten American again from Syria.
“And listen, the corruption detailed in Ambassador Bill Taylor's chilling and brave testimony yesterday, it cannot be allowed into democracy. Our refusal to accept this kind of behavior—it is what separates us from all the tin pot dictatorships around the world. I eventually hope that my Republican colleagues see this. But I also want my Republican colleagues who spend their time thinking of themselves as bulwarks of national security to see the damage, much of it irreparable, that Trump has done to our position in the world.
“Why continue to offer him this unconditional protection from an impeachment inquiry, if the cost of in staying in office, is the shattering of our reputation around the world? Why continue to defend him if his actions everywhere are causing the world to fall apart? And it is falling apart in every corner of the globe today. Everything that this administration has touched has gotten worse. And here's the scariest part: this president and this administration might still have 14 more months to do even more damage.
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to come by and try to put this week's headlines in some context for my colleagues and I look forward to the discussion this morning. Appreciate it.”