Tom Carper, U.S. Senator for Delaware

When I was first elected to the U.S. Senate, the Department of Homeland Security didn’t exist. Our nation's intelligence agencies were not working together. Thousands of Delawareans were about to be deployed overseas to fight wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden was not only still alive but still plotting attacks against the United States. Since then, so much has changed. Under President Obama’s leadership, the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces have brought the Iraq War to a close. Troops in Afghanistan are coming home, and Al-Qaeda has been severely weakened. But today many global challenges that we must continue to confront remain including: the stabilization of Afghanistan, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the continuing threat posed by terrorists around the world, the dangers of climate change, the spread of pandemic diseases, the global economic recession, and worldwide poverty. This is a pivotal moment for the United States. There is much work to be done if we are to maintain our standing as a world leader and keep the American people safe. 

The Tragedy in Syria

Syria’s ongoing civil war is a tragedy that also threatens to further disrupt an already volatile region of the world. Since the civil war began over two years ago, more than 2 million Syrian refugees have fled the war-torn nation, and thousands of lives have been claimed in this ongoing conflict. The conflict took another turn for the worse on August 21, 2013 when Bashar Al Assad’s regime used chemical weapons to attack its own people in the suburbs of Damascus, killing an estimated 1,429 people, including 426 children. The use of such unwarranted tactics by the Syrian regime is simply unacceptable. As President Obama has made clear, the United States supports the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people and recognizes that the Assad regime's policies, including pursuing chemical and biological weapons and supporting terrorist organizations, continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to both the innocent civilians in Syria and the national security goals of the U.S.

While a peaceful resolution to this situation is preferable, diplomacy can only be effective if we maintain a real and credible threat of military force to ensure that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad follows through with his commitment to disarm. My hope is that by aggressively pursuing dual tracks – a diplomatic resolution working with our allies and the United Nations as well as a revised resolution in Congress that reiterates our support for the President’s use of a limited military response – we can address the Syrian crisis responsibly.

Foreign Aid

In 2011, the U.S. spent nearly $38 billion in foreign aid to 150 countries, with the majority of funding going to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, and Iraq. In the Senate, I have consistently voted with a majority of my colleagues to fully fund the international affairs budget for the many programs that enhance global security and respond to the challenges our nation faces on a global level. With that said, an issue that weighs heavy on my mind and the minds of my constituents is the need for leaders in Washington to spend scarce taxpayer resources wisely and to address our nation's escalating budget deficits. Foreign aid remains one of the most effective and important aspects of our foreign policy. While I believe that everything must be on the table when it comes to deficit reduction, it is important to note that international affairs expenditures like foreign aid account for less than one percent of the federal budget.

The Way Forward in Afghanistan  

Over the past few years, the U.S. forces in Afghanistan have made significant progress toward bringing stability to this former safe haven for terrorists. Along with our NATO allies, we have trained thousands of Afghan Army and police recruits, driven the Taliban out of their strongholds in the south and reduced the ranks of Al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan. Before the United States can leave Afghanistan though, we must empower Afghanistan to provide its own security and stability, much like we did with Iraq. Now, as we wind down our combat missions in Afghanistan with the goal of transitioning US combat forces out of the country by 2014, we must ensure that we act responsibly so that we do not undermine the significant, yet reversible, progress made over the past few years.

Achieving victory in Afghanistan will also require addressing the challenges presented by its neighbor, Pakistan. Pakistan has played and will continue to play a strong role in influencing the future of Afghanistan. In the wake of Osama bin Laden's death, we must keep the pressure on Pakistan to use its influence in Afghanistan to help stabilize the country, disarm the Taliban, and bring Al-Qaeda operatives to justice.  

Stopping Nuclear Threats

One of the biggest threats to our national security is the possibility that a terrorist organization like Al-Qaeda will gain access to nuclear material that could be used to detonate a dirty bomb or an improvised nuclear device within the United States.  To combat this threat, we must continue to secure and decommission nuclear stockpiles throughout the world. The ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in December 2010 was an important step in this process, but we must not stop there. Congress must fully fund programs like the Nunn–Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Initiative. We must ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and continue to pressure the Iranians to abandon their nuclear program. And we must work with Russia to come to an agreement on the reduction of tactical nuclear weapons.

Iran's growing nuclear program is of serious concern to the U.S. and its allies. The United States and the European Union have put targeted economic sanctions in place in order to deter Iran's defiant nuclear program. While economic sanctions and diplomatic efforts have succeeded in isolating the country, the opportunity for Iran to choose to abandon its nuclear weapons effort is growing smaller with each passing month. A nuclear armed Iran threatens not only the United States, but also our allies in the region. We must continue to impress upon Iran that it is critical to U.S. national security that they do not acquire a nuclear weapon. The change in Iran’s leadership presents the US and its allies an opportunity to negotiate an end to the Iranian nuclear threat, but Iran must take concrete steps to show its commitment to ending its nuclear ambitions.  

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict  

U.S. security and stature in the global community are significantly affected by the failure of the Israelis and the Palestinians to bring a resolution to their centuries-old conflict. Though there is no easy solution to the current conflict, the Obama Administration understands the importance of American leadership and has made resolving this conflict a priority. The President's team will continue to press both the Israelis and Palestinians toward a comprehensive, negotiated solution. We must engage the international community and all the key actors in the Middle East in an effort to achieve a two-state solution.

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