Senate Democrats

Democrats Stand for a Change of Course on National Security

We cannot afford to continue disastrous Bush Republican policies on national security. Eight years of strategic miscalculations have left us far less secure than we should be and our country less-equipped to address the global challenges before us. Democrats stand for the real change necessary to right our course and restore America’s leadership in the world – from our plan to bring a responsible end to the war in Iraq; return our focus to defeating the terrorist threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan; address the dangerous strain on our military; and strengthen international cooperation for combating nuclear proliferation and other transnational threats.

Democrats support a change of course in Iraq so that the United States can refocus our resources on the battle against al-Qaeda and other global threats. Democrats have repeatedly advanced initiatives to bring to a close our open-ended commitment in Iraq so that we may turn to the real front in the war on terrorism. We have advanced a comprehensive plan for a phased withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq in order to more effectively stabilize and secure Iraq, while allowing us to turn our attention and resources to the more critical fight of hunting down Osama bin Laden, and countering the threat posed by al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist networks.

Democrats stand for a refocused commitment to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan – the central front in the fight against al-Qaeda. While the White House and its Republican allies have continued to divert critical resources away from the campaign in Afghanistan in support of its endless war in Iraq, Senate Democrats have consistently worked to sustain our focus on winning the battle against the Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists that attacked our country on 9/11. Democrats have called for a comprehensive strategy for securing and stabilizing Afghanistan, and also worked to provide additional funds for counterterrorism, security and diplomatic operations, counter-narcotics, and humanitarian assistance. (P.L. 110-181; P.L. 110-28)

Democrats are committed to putting an end to terrorist safe havens. Democrats advanced legislation that requires the President to report to Congress on his long-term strategy for engaging with Pakistan to eliminate safe havens for the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other violent extremists in Pakistan and also to prevent the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other extremist forces from continuing their cross border incursions into Afghanistan. Democrats also have required the president to report to Congress on “the global strategy of the United States to combat and defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates.” (P.L. 110-181; P.L. 110-252)

Democrats believe that we need a new approach to relations with Pakistan, in order to promote long-term strategic engagement and address the root causes of terrorism. Democrats have advocated the comprehensive revamping of the failing U.S. policy toward Pakistan, in order build a more effective strategic relationship with the Pakistani government and its people. Senate Democrats have called for a dramatic increase in development assistance to Pakistan, stronger accountability on our military assistance program in order to improve Pakistani counterterrorism capabilities, and significantly enhanced efforts to combat the Taliban and al-Qaeda. (S.3263)

Democrats stand for detainee policies that reflect America’s values. Democrats have repeatedly called for an end to Bush Republican detainee policies that have damaged America’s standing in the international community, placed U.S. troops at risk on the battlefield, and hampered our efforts to fight terrorism. We have improved detainee practices in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere, including through legislation to uphold the rule of law with respect to detainees and to end torture. (P.L. 110-181; Conference Report 110-478)

Democrats support a coherent, comprehensive strategy toward Iran that advances U.S. national security. Democrats have called for an end to the ineffective Bush approach toward Iran that has served only to heighten its threat and made no progress toward eliminating the country’s nuclear program. Instead of ruling out tough and effective diplomacy as the Bush Administration has done, Democrats support smart diplomacy and economic pressure to reign in the country’s nuclear aspirations, support for terrorism, and destabilizing influence in the region.

Democrats understand the power of tough diplomacy for addressing national security challenges. While Bush Republicans have relied on military might to deal with our adversaries, Democrats recognize that effective solutions to the fundamental national security challenges of the 21st Century must be founded on the strength of American leadership and our ability to forge international cooperation. Democrats believe that critical transnational threats, such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, pandemics and the drug trade demand recognizing common interests with both our allies and our adversaries.

Democrats do not hesitate to use all elements of national power, including the use of force, to protect America and defend against imminent threats to our national security. Democrats will use military force when it is the best tool to confront immediate threats to our national security and protect our homeland; however, we are committed to using our Armed Forces responsibly. In contrast to the Bush Administration’s record, we will ensure that our military has a clearly-defined mission as well as the strategy, resources, equipment and training necessary to fulfill that mission.

Democrats are committed to restoring balance to our strained ground forces. While Bush Republicans continue to call for repeated and extended deployments of our troops in support of its endless war in Iraq, Democrats believe that we need to relieve the dangerous strain on our military and their families. In addition to our calls for changing course in Iraq, Democrats have advocated for the establishment of minimum periods between deployments for U.S. troops to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, efforts to revise this irresponsible policy have been blocked by the Bush Administration and its allies in the Senate, including Senator McCain. (Senate Amendment #2909 to H.R.1585)

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