The Associated Press recently ran a story covering the foreign policy priorities for the Second Congressional District candidates. I'm happy to share my complete responses to their questions:
1. What realistic progress can be made in Iraq in the next six months? What action, if any, should Congress take, either in the meantime, or at the end of those six months?
US and Iraqi forces have made remarkable progress over the past 18 months, largely due to an increase in American troops and a change in tactics on the ground. The military, diplomatic, and political progress would be squandered if we were to withdraw before Iraq was ready to secure its own borders and protect its own cities. The Iraqi army and police are closer to this goal than ever before, and we could see significant shifts in American deployments over the next six months to a year. Congress should not endanger this progress by micromanaging ongoing operations.
By responding to the needs of American and Iraqi commanders, Congress can give our troops the tools they need to complete their mission in Iraq and come home. Paul Hodes and Nancy Pelosi have played political games with troop funding. We should never again use such urgently needed legislation as an excuse to add on pork-barrel spending.
2. For the last two months, more U.S. and NATO troops have been killed in Afghanistan than in Iraq. Attacks by the Taliban have grown more complex and deadly. The United States has asked NATO allies to send more combat forces to Afghanistan. Should Congress withhold support for NATO or put restrictions on funding to allies that don't support U.S. efforts? What else should Congress do regarding Afghanistan?
Progress in Afghanistan is complicated by that nation's mountainous terrain, the continued reliance of many farmers on opium, and the proximity of the Pakistani border. By crossing the border into an unstable region of Pakistan, the remnants of the Taliban and the foreign fighters who've joined it are able to find safe haven from NATO forces. The tenuous political situation in Pakistan makes it even harder for NATO forces to prevent this. More troops from our NATO allies would be very useful, but it is even more important to have a stable Pakistan assisting our efforts in the region. We can not allow that government to fall to Islamic radicals.
Congress should use its diplomatic leverage to assist American efforts to increase allied assistance in Afghanistan, but withholding aid to our NATO allies would be counterproductive.
3. Iran's recent war games and tests of a long-range missile have raised worries of yet another Middle Eastern conflict _ this time involving Iran, Israel and perhaps the United States and Israel's allies. Would you vote to support military action against Iran? If so, under what circumstances? If not, how would you as a member of Congress steer the two countries away from war and down a different path?
Iran is pursuing a dangerous and destabilizing nuclear weapons program, continues to push ahead with its long-range missile program, and nuclear processing capability. It has refused to engage in good-faith negotiations with the U.S. and the European Union, and clings to its commitment to destroy Israel. Clearly, diplomatic efforts are limited when only one side is interested in peace.
Before I could support any military action, I would need to be convinced not only that such action were in the national interest, and in response to a clear threat, but that there was a clear and achievable mission. I have not yet seen such a mission described in Iran.
Should a U.S. President ever ask for the authority to use military force, I would insist on an up-or-down vote on a Declaration of War. The current Congress has attempted to duck responsibility for its own actions by claiming that it never really endorsed the war in Iraq. Congress has ceded its war powers to the Executive Branch, and should no longer be allowed to shirk its Constitutional responsibility.