While President Donald J. Trump’s views and policies on national security issues dominate press accounts and are often articulated on the White House and Department of Defense websites as well as in the President’s Twitter feed, the views of his would-be Presidential challengers are less well defined and known.
Credit to Ashley Wood and Andrew Hanna of www.crooked.com for noting in an 8 August piece that seven Presidential candidates — Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, John Delaney, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Hickenlooper, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren — have already delivered major addresses outlining alternative approaches to foreign policy, each reflecting their campaigns’ larger ideologies.
Throughout the 2020 election cycle, DSJ will be following the Presidential candidates and keeping a running list of defense industry-related comments and policy proposals. Bookmark this page and continue to check back for updates:
12 September – Senator Corey Booker at the third Democratic Debate — “There’s one point we’re really missing on the stage right now, which is the fact that Donald Trump’s America first policy is actually an America isolated, an America alone policy.”
“From trade to battling China to the global crisis of climate change, the challenges in the Middle East, he is pulling us away from our allies, out of the Iran deal, out of the Paris climate accords. And on trade, he’s deciding to take on China, while at the same time taking on tariff battles with all of our allies. You literally have him using a national security waiver to put tariffs on Canada.”
We cannot go up against China alone. This is a president that has a better relationship with dictators, like Duterte and Putin, than he does with Merkel and Macron. We are the strongest nation on the planet Earth, and our strength is multiplied and magnified when we stand with our allies in common cause and common purpose. That’s how we beat China. That’s how we beat climate change on the planet Earth, and that’s how American values are the ones that lead on issues of trade and workers’ rights.”
12 September – Mayor Pete Buttigieg at the third Democratic Debate when asked of his campaign promise to bring US troops home from Afghanistan in the first year after taking office — “And today, September 12, 2019, means that today you could be 18 years old, old enough to serve, and had not been alive on 9/11. We have got to put an end to endless war.”
“And the way we do it is see to it that that country will never again be used for an attack against our homeland, and that does not require an open-ended commitment of ground troops.
Let me say something else, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Afghanistan, from Afghanistan, it’s that the best way not to be caught up in endless war is to avoid starting one in the first place. And so when I am president, an authorization for the use of military force will have a built-in three-year sunset. Congress will be required to vote and a president will be required to go to Congress to seek an authorization. Because if our troops can summon the courage to go overseas, the least our members of Congress should be able to do is summon the courage to take a vote on whether they ought to be there.
By the way, we also have a president right now who seems to treat troops as props, or worse, tools for his own enrichment. We saw what’s going on with flights apparently being routed through Scotland just so people can stay at his hotels. I’ll tell you, as a military officer, the very first thing that goes through your mind, the first time you ever make eye contact with somebody that you are responsible for in uniform, is do not let these men and women down. This president is doing exactly that. I will not.”
12 September – Senator Elizabeth Warren at the third Democratic Debate when asked if she would bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan without a peace deal with the Taliban — “Yes. And I’ll tell you why. What we’re doing right now in Afghanistan is not helping the safety and security of the United States. It is not helping the safety and security of the world. It is not helping the safety and security of Afghanistan. We need to bring our troops home. And then we need to make a big shift. We cannot ask our military to keep solving problems that cannot be solved militarily.”
“We’re not going to bomb our way to a solution in Afghanistan. We need to treat the problem of terrorism as a worldwide problem, and that means we need to be working with all of our allies, our European allies, our Canadian allies, our Asian allies, our allies in Africa and in South America. We need to work together to root out terrorism. It means using all of our tools. It means economic investment. It means expanding our diplomatic efforts instead of hollowing out the State Department and deliberately making it so we have no eyes and ears in many of these countries. We need a foreign policy that is about our security and about leading on our values.”
12 September – Secretary Julián Castro at the third Democratic Debate when asked about the Trump Administration’s trade war with China — “I agree with those who have said that this erratic, haphazard trade war is hurting American families. It’s estimated that it’s cost $600 to the average American family. Just a couple of days ago, 60 percent of Americans said that they believe that we’re in for a recession next year. So when I become president, I would immediately begin to negotiate with China to ratchet down that trade war. We have leverage there.”
“I also believe, though, that we need to return to a leader when it comes to things like human rights. We have millions of Uighurs, for instance, in China that right now are being imprisoned and mistreated. And in North Korea, this president is elevating a dictator. We need to stop that. We need to return to ensuring that America leads again on human rights. When it comes to this trade war, I would immediately begin ratcheting that trade war down. We have leverage in that discussion.”
12 September – Andrew Yang at the third Democratic Debate — “I’ve signed a pledge to end the forever wars. We’ve been in a state of continuous armed conflict for 18 years, which is not what the American people want. We have to start owning what we can and can’t do. We’re not very good at rebuilding countries. And if you want proof, all you have to do is look within our own country of Puerto Rico.”
9 August – Vice President Joe Biden — “President Trump may think he’s being tough on China. All that he’s delivered as a consequence of that is American farmers, manufacturers, and consumers losing and paying more,” Biden said during a foreign-policy speech in New York last month. “His economic decision-making is so shortsighted and as shortsighted as the rest of his foreign policy.”
1 August – Senator Elizabeth Warren — “Look, we don’t expand trust around the world by saying, “You know, we might be the first ones to use a nuclear weapon.” That puts the entire world at risk and puts us at risk, right in the middle of this. At a time when Donald Trump is pulling out of our nuclear negotiations, expanding the opportunities for nuclear proliferation around the world, has pulled us out of the deal in Iran, and Iran is now working on its nuclear weapon, the world gets closer and closer to nuclear warfare. We have to have an announced policy that is one the entire world can live with. We need to make that clear. We will respond if someone else does, but not first.”
31 July – Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio – Speaking of Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un: “(Diplomacy) is long, tedious work. Much of it done outside of the eye of the TV camera. And as president, you’ve got to monitor that and be very disciplined every day. Don’t go give a dictator a huge win. Sit down and do your job.”
31 July – Pete Buttigieg – “We will withdraw. We have to. Around the world we will do whatever it takes to keep America safe. But I thought I was one of the last troops leaving Afghanistan (in 2014) … We’re pretty close to the day when we will wake up to the news of a casualty in Afghanistan who was not born on September 11.”
31 July – Sen. Bernie Sanders – “What we need is a foreign policy that focuses on diplomacy. Ending conflicts by people sitting at a table not by killing each other. I will go to the United Nations and not denigrate it, not attack the UN, but bring countries together … and solve those problems peacefully.”
31 July – John Hickenlooper Jr. — “If we completely pull our troops out of [Afghanistan], you are going to see a humanitarian disaster. We are going to have to be in Afghanistan. Look at the progress that has happened in that country. We are going to turn our backs and walk away from people that have risked their lives to help us and build a different future for Afghanistan and that part of the world?”
26 July – Kamala Harris — “It is a fact Russia interfered in the election of the president of the United States. [Kremlin operatives then] started figuring out well, how can we get those people, the Americans, going at each other, losing confidence in the system. You know the number one thing that attracted heat? Race. [They] exposed America’s Achilles heel. So guess what? All of a sudden race has not only become a civil rights issue, [but also] a national security issue.”
“We are going to have to respond immediately because people are going to be duped into believing things that are not true,” she said.
25 July – Kirsten Gillibrand – “Meeting the terror threat does not require holding territory. We have the best intelligence professionals, quick reaction forces, and the best military assets deployed around the world. There is no geography we cannot reach on short notice; we don’t advance our goals by stationing tens of thousands of US troops and heavy equipment in countries that don’t want us there and that are costly to supply.”
“President Trump needlessly broke with our European allies when he unilaterally withdrew the US from the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action deal with Iran], putting America at a level of risk we have not seen in years. Before the deal, Iranians had breakout capacity in only a matter of months before the deal. After the deal, breakout capacity moved to over a decade. With the deal, we gained new, unparalleled intelligence about Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Rather than increasing our leverage, Trump’s tantrum resulted in Iran’s decision to breach its obligations and begin enriching uranium. I condemn Iran’s recent escalations and its breach of the nuclear deal, but we would not be in this situation in the first place if it was not for President Trump’s irresponsible actions.”
July 19 – Joe Sestak: “Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have recently reached dangerous new heights — which could result in spiraling reprisals devolving into war. Having served in the military, I know that militaries can stop a problem, but they can’t fix a problem. This is why I supported the Iran nuclear accord, and still support it today as the best framework for maintaining peace and security for us and our allies. As tensions continue to ratchet up, we must own up to the fact that we are to blame. We broke our word…“
“…The Iran deal was working. As a solution to the problem of Iran developing nuclear weapons, it was actually working quite well. We need to return to the negotiating table. Diplomacy fixed this problem before. Diplomacy can do it again.”
July 15 – Joe Sestak: “I believe a negotiated settlement based on a two-state solution is best for Israel — our closest friend in the Middle East — and for the Palestinian people. A lasting peace is in everyone’s interest, including the rest of the region and the United States.”
“It’s why I said President Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem was a mistake that created yet another roadblock to peace. As President, I will work with Israel to take the responsible action of moving the embassy back to Tel Aviv, where it should remain until the final status of Jerusalem is settled through a bilateral agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.”
July 11 – Joe Biden: “The threat that I believe President Trump poses to our national security and where we are as a country is extreme.”
June 25 – Bernie Sanders: “The American people don’t want endless war. Neither do we want a foreign policy that is based on the logic that led to those wars and corroded our democracy: a logic that privileges military tools over diplomatic ones, aggressive unilateralism over multilateral engagement, and acquiescence to our undemocratic partners over the pursuit of core interests alongside democratic allies who truly share our values.”
In a speech entitled “Ending America’s Endless War” delivered at George Washington University and published in Foreign Affairs magazine, Congressman Bernie Sanders (I-NH) warns that if the United States were to attack Iran, as the Trump Administration has threatened, it “would be many times worse than the Iraq war.” He notes that “Tehran could use its proxies to retaliate against U.S. troops and partners in Iraq, Syria, Israel, and the Persian Gulf area” and that the “result would be the further, unimaginable destabilization of the Middle East, with wars that go on year after year and likely cost trillions of dollars.”
June 23 – Joe Sestak (US Navy Admiral, retired), in announcing his 2020 Presidential run: “Our country desperately needs a president with a depth of global experience and an understanding of all the elements of our nation’s power, from our economy and our diplomacy to the power of our ideals and our military, including its limitation.”
He added. “So that, when faced with the decision on whether to use our military, our commander in chief will know how it will end before deciding if it is wise to begin.”
June 21 – Joe Biden: “Trump’s erratic, impulsive actions are the last thing we need as Commander-in-Chief. No president should order a military strike without fully understanding the consequences. We don’t need another war in the Middle East, but Trump’s actions toward Iran only make that more likely.”
From Joe Biden’s campaign website: “The world is facing inescapable challenges: a rapidly changing climate, the risk of nuclear conflict, trade wars, a rising China and an aggressive Russia, millions of refugees seeking shelter and security, and attacks on universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. The next president must repair our relationships with our allies and stand up to strongmen and thugs on the global stage to rally the world to meet these challenges. We can reclaim our longstanding position as the moral and economic leader of the world.”
June 20 – John Delaney — “The Delaney Doctrine is based on global engagement, diplomatically and economically, while continuing to maintain a very strong US military. My view of the world is much more in line with kind of the post-World War II US foreign policy model than I think other people running for the nomination seek.“
“Take the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. I was one of the few Democrats to support it at the time who’s now running for president. In many ways, that agreement really framed how you thought about the world. Do you think it actually makes sense for the United States to be engaging, or are you trying to turn back the clock?”
June 11 – Pete Buttigieg: “We need to look not only at how much we’re spending on our military, but what we’re prioritizing.”
In an hour-long foreign policy speech on June 11, South Bend Mayor and former Naval Reservist Pete Buttigieg spoke about how he would transform the military budget:
“The US has long sought to maintain total dominance in conventional war. But in the coming decades, we are more likely than ever to face insurgencies, asymmetric attacks, and high-tech strikes with cyber weapons or drones,” Buttigieg said. “Yet our latest defense budget calls for spending more on three Virginia-class submarines, $10.2 billion, than on cyber defenses. It proposes spending more on a single frigate than on artificial intelligence and machine learning. To adequately prepare for our evolving security challenges, we need to look not only at how much we’re spending on our military, but what we’re prioritizing.”
June 10 – Elizabeth Warren: “The White House is handing over sensitive smart bomb technology to Saudi Arabia. Enough.”
On June 10, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted out a New York Times article about how the Trump administrated authorized Raytheon to build high-tech bomb parts in Saudi Arabia. Along with the article, Warren said: “Saudi Arabia’s coalition has killed Yemeni civilians with bombs stamped Made in America. Now the White House is handing over sensitive smart bomb technology to Saudi Arabia. Enough. Time to end support for this cruel and senseless war.”
June 6 – Seth Moulton: “If you were kicked out of the service because you’re gay … We’re going to restore your discharge”
Appearing on CNN on June 6, Democratic Congressman and former Marine Seth Moulton said “If you were kicked out of the service because you’re gay or you engaged in homosexual activity, then we are going to right that wrong. We’re going to restore your discharge, upgrading it to honorable discharge if you received an other-than-honorable discharge or dishonorable discharge because of just who you are.”
June 4 – Elizabeth Warren: “Even Silicon Valley is cashing in on the Pentagon’s corrupt contracting system”
On June 4, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted out an article from The Intercept about Oracle’s complaint over alleged conflict of interest and favoritism within the Department of Defense concerning the $10 billion JEDI program. On May 16, Warren introduced a bill that would put a 4-year ban on defense industry partners hiring DoD officials who managed their contracts.
“Even Silicon Valley is cashing in on the Pentagon’s corrupt contracting system,” Warren tweeted. “My … Ethics & Anti-Corruption Act … would lock the revolving door so that the Pentagon isn’t working for the benefit of past-and-future employers.”
June 3 – Julián Castro: “End the … 1033 program”
In a news release corresponding with his appearance at the MoveOn Ideas Forum, former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro announced his three-pronged plan to reform policing and eliminate racial bias.
His plan included issuing “an executive order to end the transfer of tracked and wheeled armored vehicles, high-caliber rifles, aircraft equipped with weapons, grenade launchers, and other military weapons, vehicles, and equipment under the federal government’s 1033 program.” The 1033 program allows the Department of Defense to transfer excess military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies.
June 2 – Bernie Sanders: “We have got to stop endless wars. We have to cut military spending”
Appearing at the MoveOn Ideas Forum, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders talked about the need to stop the policy of endless wars which “has undermined the United States’ moral authority, caused allies to question our ability to lead, bankrupted our Treasury, and corroded our democracy.” Sanders also said:
- He would “do everything in [his] power to stop a war with Iran”
- Congress should repeal the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force
June 2 – Tusli Gabbard: “We cannot separate foreign policy from domestic policy”
In a Twitter video from an appearance on FoxNews, Hawaii Rep. and former Army National Guard officer Tulsi Gabbard argued that foreign policy and domestic policy cannot be separated: “Stupid regime change wars suck badly needed funds from our domestic needs such as healthcare, infrastructure, protecting the environment, and more.”
June 1 – Kirsten Gillibrand: “I would immediately rescind Trump’s … ban on transgender people serving openly in our military.”
On Sunday, the first day of Pride month, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand unveiled her LGBTQ platform in a post on Medium. Included in it, Gillibrand said she would:
- “Immediately rescind Trump’s hateful and harmful ban on transgender people serving openly in our military”
- “Charge the Department of Defense to end discrimination against service members in our military living with HIV.”
May 31 – Marianne Williamson: “America should embark on a 10- to 20-year plan for turning a wartime economy into a peace-time economy”
In a new National Security policy page unveiled on May 31, American Author Marianne Williamson released a plan that would “flip the script” to spend more on conflict prevention than the military. She also proposed reducing the military budget and re-inventing a “peace-time economy.”
“It would be ill-conceived and irresponsible to simply starve the beast of bloated military spending,” her website states. “Rather, America should embark on a 10- to 20-year plan for turning a wartime economy into a peace-time economy, repurposing the tremendous talents and infrastructure of our military-industrial complex in such a way as to leave us strong enough to deal with America’s legitimate needs for military preparedness, yet moving on to the urgent task of building a sustainable society and sustainable world.”
May 27 – Tulsi Gabbard: “It’s Time to Bring Our Troops Home”
In a new video released for Memorial Day, Hawaii Rep. and a former Army National Guard officer Tulsi Gabbard called for bringing American troops home and ending “regime change” wars. According to her new website page, “Tulsi is running for president to stop sending our troops to fight in costly, interventionist regime change wars, work to end the new Cold War and nuclear arms race.”
May 16 – Elizabeth Warren: “It’s Time to Reduce Corporate Influence at the Pentagon”
Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts, unveiled 12 proposals centered around three key areas:
- Limit the Revolving Door and Restrict Contractor Influence
- Limit Foreign Influence
- Ensure Contractor Transparency
The proposals are the most direct and concrete policy proposals that any of the 2020 candidates have outlined so far in the election cycle.
May 15 – Elizabeth Warren: “Our military can help lead the fight in combating climate change”
In a Medium post published on May 15, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren announced several policies charging the Pentagon and armed services with getting more environmentally-conscious. They include:
- Ensuring the Pentagon achieves net zero carbon emissions for all its non-combat bases and infrastructure by 2030
- Creating a dedicated source of funding to adapt military bases to the changes of the climate
- Charging a fee—1% of total contract value—on any contractor who hasn’t achieved net zero carbon emissions (presumably by 2030)
- Investing billions of dollars into a new, ten-year research and development program at the Defense Department focused on microgrids and advanced energy storage
May 2 – Bernie Sanders: “As president, I would certainly look at a very different military budget.”
In an interview with Vox, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders — without getting into details — said that the U.S. should not be “spending more than the 10 next nations on earth … [while] you have veterans sleeping out on the streets, major crisis after major crisis in affordable housing, infrastructure.”
April 30 – John Delaney: “I will not seek reductions in defense spending”
In a speech at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies on April 30th, Maryland Congressman John Delaney outlined his foreign policy, which included “not seek[ing] reductions in defense spending” and “put[ting] arms control at the top of my national security agenda.” He also emphasized the importance of diplomacy, allies, multinational organizations, the intelligence community, and ending “ill-advised” wars. Delaney has sought to separate himself from other primary contenders as the only candidate outlining foreign policy goals.
March 26 – Andrew Yang: “Modernize Military Spending”
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Andrew Yang has unveiled several defense proposals centered around “modernizing” the Pentagon’s budget. Yang’s proposals include:
- Refocusing the military’s focus on modern threats, such as loose nuclear material and cyberterrorism
- Rechanneling 10% of the military budget—approximately $60 billion per year—to an infrastructure project.
- Regularly auditing the Department of Defense
- Appoint a new Secretary of Cybersecurity