For over sixteen years, our country has been engaged in wars abroad that have strained our military, our families, and our finances. We should always exhaust all other options before going to war, and we must never again put wars on a credit card for our grandchildren to pay. If a war is unavoidable and in our national interest, then we should be willing to pay for it as we fight it.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am focused on making sure Congress provides effective support and oversight of our Armed Forces, monitors threats to national security, and ensures the responsible use of military force around the globe.
Strengthening our national security
National security is about more than the dollars spent or the size of our military. We must focus on smart investments and sensible reforms that best advance our national security.
Our Commonwealth leads the nation in innovative defense technologies that keep servicemembers safe and help our military modernize to meet emerging threats. At the same time, we need to make sure the Defense Department, the largest agency of the federal government, undergoes a full audit to stem waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars.
In my first two years on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I helped pass legislation to strengthen national security and improve the lives of servicemembers and their families: increased funding for family housing and construction upgrades at Massachusetts military installations; targeted investments in basic and applied research; policies that will help ensure National Guard members receive the pay and benefits they deserve; provisions that make it easier for victims of terrorism to receive care at military hospitals; care for military sexual assault survivors and for servicemembers who suffer from gambling addiction; and enhanced transparency about civilian casualties.
We also need a foreign policy that leverages all our resources, not just our military might. Every senior military official I have spoken with has emphasized how indispensable their State Department and foreign aid counterparts are to their mission. In addition to funding and supporting our troops, we must support the non-military aspects of our foreign policy. Diplomacy is an essential part of advancing U.S. interests around the world and reducing the likelihood of conflict.
The Indo-Pacific region
I strongly support deeper engagement with the Indo-Pacific region. It is home to a significant portion of our Armed Forces, and essential to our security and economic interests. But rising territorial tensions, North Korea’s continued nuclear provocation, and the dangers of violent extremism all pose a risk to the region’s security.
I traveled to Japan, South Korea, and China in the Spring, and I believe more than ever that our network of partners and alliances is one of our unique strengths in this region. We must continue to deepen these relationships, to stand with our allies and partners to uphold international law, and to ensure security, stability and prosperity in the region.
Driven by its increasingly powerful economy, China continues to modernize its military forces and expand its international presence. In some cases, China has taken actions that challenge international law and raise serious questions in the region about its strategic intentions. We must take a whole-of-government approach to the challenges posed by China. That means not only modernizing our own military, but also diplomacy; prudent trade and economic policy; and doubling down here at home on investments that set the conditions for us to stay competitive.
A nuclear-armed North Korea is a serious threat to the security of the United States, our allies, the region, and the world. There is no military-only solution to the North Korean nuclear challenge. I oppose a preventive military strike, which is unlikely to fully eliminate the nuclear threat and could incite a devastating regional war. President Trump has leapt from reckless threats to a photo op that has not prevented North Korea from continuing to develop nuclear weapons. I want diplomacy to succeed, but a handshake is no substitute for a binding deal. We must use every tool at our disposal – including diplomacy, targeted economic sanctions, and leveraging our relationships in the region – to bring North Korea to the table for serious negotiations, with the ultimate goal of eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons and verifying that they are gone.
Our intelligence community has concluded with high confidence that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election by hacking private files of the Democratic Party and campaign officials and through a disinformation and propaganda campaign waged through social media and other platforms. And yet President Trump has cozied up to Vladimir Putin and announced to the world that he believes the word of a dictator over the unanimous conclusions of America’s intelligence agencies.
Make no mistake: This was an attack, and Russia’s actions in 2016 are part of a pattern of destabilizing activities. From illegally annexing the Crimean region of Ukraine and supporting the murderous Assad regime in Syria to its malicious cyber attacks and attempts to undermine European governments, Russia is intent on subverting the international order and democracies around the world. We must respond with strength, including the vigorous enforcement of existing sanctions and the targeted enactment of new ones, as well as working with our allies to counter Russian disinformation and malign activity.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has already indicted multiple Russian nationals for their illegal efforts in this scheme and has secured guilty pleas from a variety of individuals. He must be given the time and resources to fully investigate these malicious activities and the question of whether Trump campaign associates knew about or participated in them.
The Iranian government is no friend to the United States. Its support of terrorism, systematic disrespect for human rights, and continued ballistic missile program make Iran a destabilizing force in the region and around the world. I support the vigorous enforcement of sanctions in response to these activities.
I also believe it is much easier to counter Iran’s destabilizing behavior if it does not have a nuclear weapon. In 2015, we reached a diplomatic agreement that places Iran’s nuclear program under verifiable limits and unprecedented inspections, blocking Iran’s path to a bomb. And for the first two years, it worked great – international inspectors repeatedly certified that Iran remains in compliance, and our senior military leaders agree.
President Trump’s decisions to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the 2015 agreement and reimpose nuclear-related sanctions risk provoking Iran into restarting its nuclear weapons program. These reckless actions break our word, hurt our credibility with our allies, and don’t make us any safer at home – they are dangerous for our country and the world.
Countering international terrorism and extremism
In Iraq and Syria, a U.S.-led coalition has helped to devastate ISIS by enabling our partner forces on the ground and providing them with training, equipment, and support where necessary. This summer, I visited Iraq and Kuwait where I visited with our troops and saw for myself the gains we have made against ISIS on the battlefield. But I also came away with the firm conviction that defeating ISIS on the ground is only the beginning: To permanently defeat it and its affiliates, these communities must be secured and rebuilt to prevent a return to extremism. This is the responsibility of governments in the region, but the U.S. can and should lead the international community in providing sustained diplomatic, economic, and political support.
In Afghanistan, a small U.S. military presence can help train and advise Afghan forces and assist them in their fight to secure their country, even as we work together to eliminate al Qaeda, ISIS, and the terrorist threat emanating from the region. But our military cannot remain there forever. Last summer, I traveled to the region, and what I saw strengthened my belief that there are problems in Afghanistan that cannot be solved through military action alone. We should use our diplomatic and economic development resources to facilitate a political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban. We also need Pakistan to do more to eliminate safe havens for terrorist groups within its territory, and to secure its border with Afghanistan.
The threat of terrorism remains, and our first responsibility is to protect the American people. We must remain vigilant, continuing our political, military, economic, and diplomatic efforts against ISIS, al Qaeda, and all their affiliates.
And we must also continue to lead by example: pursuing political reconciliation wherever possible; taking steps to reduce the likelihood of civilian casualties when force is required; offering humanitarian assistance wherever we can; and welcoming refugees of all races and creeds fleeing war and persecution, from wherever they come.
Israel and the Palestinians
I believe that a two-state solution – with a democratic, independent Palestinian state alongside Israel – is in the best interest of Israel, the United States, and the Palestinian people. A lasting peace in the Middle East cannot be imposed from the outside, but I believe active American leadership can help bring about a diplomatic resolution to the conflict.
Israel is an important ally to the United States. I support the right of a Jewish, democratic state to exist in safety within borders determined by direct negotiations. Israel must be able to defend itself from the serious threats it faces, and I support the use of American diplomatic and military tools to help Israel ensure its security.
Palestinian terrorism and incitement are unacceptable and undermine the cause of peace, and Palestinian leaders’ unilateral efforts to declare statehood are counterproductive. But the Palestinian people deserve a viable economy and the opportunity to live their lives in peace, prosperity, and dignity. I support economic and humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, consistent with U.S. law.
I am concerned that Israeli military control of and settlement activity on Palestinian territory prolong the conflict and are inconsistent with universal human rights. And I believe that our longstanding alliance with Israel should not prevent us from criticizing its leaders when they take actions contrary to our shared interests.
I agree with former President Obama and former Secretaries of State and Defense on both sides of the aisle: America must reduce the role played by nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and continue to take practical steps toward a world free of nuclear weapons.
I oppose proposals to develop new nuclear weapons for the U.S. arsenal and have introduced bipartisan legislation to prevent us from going down that road. I also oppose expanding the number of scenarios in which we might use nuclear weapons. I am firmly opposed to Republican efforts to give the White House free rein to develop new nuclear weapons. I strongly support efforts to make mutual, verifiable reductions in existing nuclear arsenals and to secure existing materials. I support extending the New START treaty, which has responsibly and verifiably reduced the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, while allowing us to deter nuclear threats to us and our allies.
In addition to following through on our commitments to nuclear agreements with Russia and Iran, I believe that the United States should ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, as a global ban on nuclear explosive testing is in our national security interest. We must also support efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and secure nuclear materials worldwide, and work with and pressure other nations not to pursue their own nuclear capabilities. The United States should be a leader in creating a world in which nuclear war is less likely.
The 2016 elections were a wake-up call. The Russian government tried to influence their outcomes through propaganda and covert cyber activity, and our military, intelligence, and law enforcement officials have made it clear that Russia will continue its attempts to undermine our democracy. The United States needs to confront the threat, not only from Russia but also from other nations and non-state actors determined to use these new weapons to their advantage. The federal government must work with states, local governments, and the private sector to protect our critical infrastructure – everything from the Pentagon’s weapons to the electric grid to our election system.
But defense alone is not enough. We need to do more to stop cyber threats by pursuing creative strategies of prevention and deterrence. We need to be very clear: Cyberattacks on our critical systems, and on our democracy itself, are unacceptable and will not go unchallenged.