On Wednesday, September 5, Council for a Livable World held an event at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, discussing national security policy under the Obama administration and what to expect in 2013. The Council was delighted to hear from a number of foreign policy experts and two Democratic challengers battling to unseat Representatives Paul Ryan and Allen West in November.
Board member Jules Zacher acted as moderator.
First up was Rob Zerban, running for Congress in the Wisconsin district that Paul Ryan currently holds. Zerban spoke about his experience as a small businessman; he started two small businesses after attending the Culinary Institute of America with the help of government grants and loans. He argued that the GOP holds extremely hawkish views on foreign affairs that are influenced by the military-industrial complex. He told the audience that more people like him need to be elected to Congress in order to achieve a nuclear weapons free world and more sensible national security policies. He wants to reinvest the excess money spent on unnecessary defense programs in education, giving other low-income Americans the same opportunities he was given when he went to college with federal grants and loans. Zerban has a tough battle in the House race, but so far he has raised $1.6 million, while Ryan’s previous challenger was only able to raise $12,000.
Following Zerban was Patrick Murphy, the Democratic challenger for Allen West’s seat in Florida. He also emphasized education, saying that the average school in America was built over forty years ago. Murphy briefly went over some of the more outlandish statements made by Allen West, and promoted a more pragmatic and less ideological view of foreign policy. Murphy is a former accountant and head of a small environmental business.
Heather Hurlburt, executive director of National Security Network and recently selected as one of the 50 most influential Democrats on national security issues, spoke of Obama’s progress and promise on nuclear weapons issue. She said Republicans’ insistence on a troop increase of 100,000 soldiers is unnecessary and that the advocates of this position are unable to explain why those troops are needed. She accused them of wantingto gut foreign aid to pay for more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. She also pointed out how the party has moved even further to the right in recent years; Republican advocates of arms control — including former Republican secretaries of state and defense — have been essentially exiled from the party for their moderate positions. and talked about the need to clearly present our case in the face of Republican carping on foreign policy issues.
Hurlburt introduced Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Congressman and longtime friend of the Council. As a Congressman, Markey has been a champion of sensible national security policies and a force for reductions in the nuclear arms budget in the face of the GOP’s unreasonable positions. According to Markey, today’s GOP is more ideological than it was under Ronald Reagan; today, there are no Republicans willing to work across the aisle with Democrats on reducing nuclear weapons and few for reforming the Pentagon. Congressman Markey hammered home the point that each Ohio class nuclear-armed submarine is capable of destroying any country in the world on its own, yet many Republicans oppose further weapons reductions and even advocate building new nuclear weapons. He warned that excessive and unnecessary spending on nuclear weapons and missile defense would strengthen Vladimir Putin in Russia and become a self-fulfilling arms race.
The event ended with Peter Galbraith, the Senior Diplomatic Fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and former U.S. Ambassador to Croatia. He spoke at length about President Obama’s foreign policy successes and the unreasonableness of the GOP’s foreign policy positions. He called the GOP’s foreign policy “foreign policy by op-ed,” saying that they took feel-good positions like talking tough on Russia and China and advocating military action in Syria, but fail to think through the consequences of those actions. While Obama thinks through all the possible contingencies of a foreign policy position and sees diplomatic cooperation as an asset, today’s Republicans see unilateralism and military force as a preferred option while ignoring the obvious benefits of multilateral cooperation. Using sanctions on Iran as an example, Galbraith explained how Obama’s multilateral approach has been successful, and argued that further cooperation will be needed, especially with Russia and the other Security Council members, in order to put sufficient pressure on Iran. The GOP’s insistence on military action before other options have been exhausted is further evidence of their commitment to ideology and the defense industry over pragmatism and the well being of the country.
All the speakers at the event spoke to the importance of reducing nuclear weapons and made a strong case for Obama’s reelection based on his foreign policy record. The Council is proud to support the candidacies of Zerban and Murphy, and thanks Congressman Markey, Heather Hurlburt and Ambassador Galbraith for their insightful remarks.