As a 24 year veteran of the Army National Guard, I served to safeguard the personal freedoms of all Americans. My military service coupled with nearly two decades of teaching has convinced me that America must remain engaged in a changing world. While this requires our nation to provide leadership abroad, we must also never lose focus on building our infrastructure and growing our economy here at home.
I believe that it is critically important for the United States to defend basic human rights around world. We must use our resources to help protect the rights of our global allies, as well as provide moral guidance by example.
While we must hold other countries accountable for human rights abuses abroad, it is also essential that America provides an example for other nations to follow. I believe that torture weakens us diplomatically and militarily, and makes us less secure. That is why I have been a cosponsor of the Torture Victims Relief Reauthorization Act in the past. I will continue to support any measure that broadcasts America’s commitment to opposing all forms of torture.
As you may know, early in my teaching career I had the opportunity to teach high school in China. Additionally, I have been a member of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) since I began serving in Congress in 2007. The CECC was created by Congress in October 2001 to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China, and to submit an annual report to the President and Congress. It consists of nine Senators, nine Members of the House of Representatives, and five senior Administration officials appointed by the President.
Our relationship with China is too complicated to be reduced to a single issue. The U.S. and China have the two largest economies in the world, and while the United States indisputably has the most powerful military in the world, China, as a rising power, is expanding its own military capabilities. Continuing our constructive economic relationship with China while expanding our military-military contacts are the keys to building a solid, lasting partnership with the China.
Still, I have many concerns about China's poor human rights record. China’s brutal suppression of pro-democracy advocates, Falun Gong practitioners, Christians, and other critics of the ruling Communist Party is an affront to basic human decency. Additionally, I strongly believe in the need to establish rule of law, freeing the Chinese people from facing imprisonment based on the whims of party leaders.
Many are also concerned by what they see as China’s unfair trade practices, especially the artificially low value of their currency. I share these concerns and have reached out to express them to our Commerce Department in the past. I am also a co-sponsor of legislation that seeks to place trade tariffs on countries like China that may employ currency manipulation and other unfair trade advantages.
The emergence of the terrorist group ISIL has presented a new threat to the United States and free people across the globe. While the previous war in Iraq that has concluded was a war of choice, the threat from ISIL is real. America and our allies must take proactive action to degrade and destroy ISIL and let it be known that any country who provides a safe haven to these radical terrorists is an enemy of the United States. The President has the authority to launch expanded airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq, he must come to Congress for authorization before taking any warranted action in Syria against ISIL.
Unlike the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan was not a war of choice. It has been a war forced upon us by the terrible attacks on September 11, 2001. In general, I support the President’s strategy to responsibly remove combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. As we move forward, we must continue to remain vigilant to ensure that no country provides a safe haven to terrorists who wish to harm Americans.
The conflicts in the Middle East are incredibly complex and affect citizens within Israel, the Palestinian territories, Iran, and the rest of the world. It is imperative that the United States remains engaged on the activities and policies of these countries.
Last year the United Nations voted to officially recognize The Palestine Liberation Organization as a non-voting (i.e. non-member) observer state. Though the United States was one of only nine nations to vote against this measure, I believe this could mark a step towards progress, peace, and finding a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.
A sustainable remedy to ongoing Israeli-Palestinian discord must be reached in order for a Palestinian state to endure. Though Israel remains one of America's strongest allies, the best interests of both countries, including the safety of its peoples, must be the top priority. I am in favor of diplomacy and cooperation between Israel and Palestine, and any solution that establishes a solidified long-term accord to be upheld for many years to come. To that end, Congress must work diligently and cautiously with the current administration to help achieve these goals.
Another concern for Israel is Iran. I support the use of stringent economic sanctions and other diplomatic tools to prevent Iran from expanding their nuclear program and undertaking any violent action against Israel. I also believe we need to continue to support the citizens of Iran that declare an interest in a peaceful and democratic society.
No approach is risk-free or guaranteed success, especially in that very troubled part of the world. You can rest assured that I will continue to look for opportunities to promote a reasoned and level-headed approach to our foreign policy with Israel, Palestine, Iran, Syria, and the entire Middle East region.
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