WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, this week joined Pod Save the World with Ben Rhodes to discuss President Biden’s address to the United Nations General Assembly, the United States’ role in the world after ending the war in Afghanistan, and Republican efforts to hold up State Department nominees.

On the withdrawal from Afghanistan as an inflection point in American foreign policy, Murphy said: “[W]e have been bogged down in Afghanistan, and as you know, it's hard to overestimate how much intellectual energy that takes inside the White House, in the State Department, the Department of Defense. And now we have freed up a lot of resources: money, personnel, and intellectual resources to be able to put into other projects…[W]e have the ability now to move on to fights that are actually winnable. Afghanistan, at least the last 10 years, was clearly in my mind a fight that was not.”

On the importance of investing in diplomacy and non-military tools in order to counter threats from China and Russia, Murphy said: “What I would like to see is a complete reorientation of the tools that we present to an American president, so that we are allowed to do things other than deploy brigades and sell arms…And so when the United States has more people working in military grocery stores than we have diplomats in the State Department, when the Department of Defense is the only organization that has the resources to deploy quickly to conflict zones, we get what we asked for, which is asymmetric warfare with countries like China and Russia that we're losing. So to me, it's being willing to test territory in non-military ways and deciding that we are going to actually plus up the State Department, plus up USAID in order to win those fights.”

Murphy refuted critics who argue ending the war in Afghanistan signals a withdrawal from the world: “[W]e can very quickly answer that by passing a substantial climate change initiative in the United States which allows us to be a credible negotiator globally, and to supersize our COVID relief efforts to dramatically expand the capability to produce and distribute vaccines all around the world. We could within six months, answer the question is America deploying or withdrawing. And to do it with climate change capacity and global health capacity will win us a whole lot more friends than deciding to make up for the withdrawal of Afghanistan by just invading a different country.” 

On the dangers of Senator Ted Cruz and other Republicans blocking Senate confirmation of State Department nominees, Murphy said: “Right now we have one ambassador that has been confirmed and almost no assistant secretaries overseeing these regions...Never before has a United States Senator done thisheld up every single State Department nominee, every single [Department of Defense] nominee because of sort of particular compartmentalized objection they have with the administration.”

Murphy continued: “The problem is, you know, the Department of Defense, its primary leadership, which is military leadership doesn't need to be nominated and confirmed. Their secretaries do, but every day that you don't have Assistant Secretaries of State, you don't have ambassadors, it's another day that the generals are empowered. So to help the president make this this this pivot towards different kinds of power projection, we've still got to do our job in the Senate.”

On Tuesday, Murphy released a statement on President Biden’s address at the United Nations General Assembly. Murphy penned an op-ed for Crooked Media making the case for why critics of President Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan are dangerously wrong.

Earlier this year, Murphy along with U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), U.S. Representative David Cicilline (RI-01), and U.S. Representative Ami Bera (CA-07) proposed a significant increase to the international affairs budget for Fiscal Year 2022 to better address America’s national security challenges. Investing in 21st Century Diplomacy calls for a $12 billion increase, directing the funding toward three specific challenges: (1) competing with China; (2) preparing for the next pandemic in a post COVID-19-era; and (3) fighting climate change. 

Click here to listen to the Pod Save the World episode in full.