WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following opening remarks at a full committee hearing on the Trump Administration foreign policy:
“As we have so far, this Committee will continue to grapple with the most immediate and critical challenges around the world. At the same time, I think it’s important that we take a step back and look more broadly at the overall state of American leadership and foreign policy—and to lay out our own vision and ideas.
“As we conduct that assessment of the Trump Administration’s foreign policy, we’re honored to welcome one of our country’s most accomplished and thoughtful foreign policy minds, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Thank you, Secretary Albright for joining us today to share your insight. Welcome back to the Committee. Welcome also to members of the public and the press.
“It will be no surprise that I have deep concerns over the direction American foreign policy has taken in the last two years. We have been walking away from international obligations. It’s called into question America’s commitment to our alliances and core values. It’s alienated our friends, emboldened our adversaries, and cozied up to strongmen and dictators. And the people on the front lines of American foreign policy—our diplomats and development experts—have been pushed to the side. It’s also a foreign policy that weakens and isolates the United States. It makes us feel less safe.
“When we’re not respected around the world—when we denigrate allies and flout international norms—it makes us less able to build the partnerships and coalitions that are essential for advancing our interests and, more importantly, ensuring our security.
“Now, it’s easy to stand on the sidelines and complain, but I think if we’re going to criticize what we don’t like, we also have a responsibility to offer an alternative.
“And there are a few big themes that I think would shape such an alternative. They represent what I consider to be the pillars of a successful, uniquely American, foreign policy.
“The first has to do with American values. When we’re at our best, American values are at the center of our foreign policy. Of course, we always have to prioritize the security of the American people, and one of the ways we do so is by supporting and advancing human rights, democracy, the rule of law.
“Our foreign policy should reflect our country’s spirit of generosity and compassion: the foreign assistance and development efforts that help countries and communities lift themselves up. These are the right things to do. They improve people’s lives and burnish the values that make our country an inspiration. They show the world our character and bring other countries onto our side as partners.
“And that brings me to the second major theme: working together with other countries. For American foreign policy to succeed, we need to be able to work with a wide range of friends and allies. Our alliances and partnerships underpin our ability to defuse crises, to respond to disasters, to push back against aggressive regimes and other threats.
“Multilateral organizations and agreements helped shape the world in the second half of the 20th century, and the United States has traditionally played a leading role, under administrations of both parties. As powerful as our country is, we’re even stronger when we work with others focused on the same priorities.
“We’re better at combatting threats from overseas—whether it’s violent extremism, a deadly pandemic, or climate change—when we’re standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our friends and allies.
“And finally, the third theme: how will we pursue our foreign-policy goals and who will be responsible for it. The way I see it, we need to elevate diplomacy and development because—whether or not they’re treated this way—they are absolutely essential to our national security.
“Seeing more and more traditionally civilian, diplomatic responsibilities slip away to the Pentagon or the intelligence community has always been a major frustration for me. In all fairness, this trend started well before the current administration.
“We wouldn’t ask our diplomats to do the job of our uniformed servicemembers. And we shouldn’t be asking our servicemembers to do the things our diplomats and development experts are trained to do—from conflict prevention to security assistance to face-to-face negotiations.
“In the last two years a bad situation has gotten worse. The Administration has chased some of our most seasoned diplomats to the exits. They’ve left important senior national security positions vacant. They’ve ignored the expertise of career officials and sent morale plummeting at the State Department.
“These committed men and women are on the frontlines of American foreign policy. What can they possibly think when the people calling the shots try to slash their budget by a third? We need to make it clear to these dedicated public servants—and to the rest of the world—that the United States understands the value of diplomacy. And we need to give our personnel the support and resources they need to carry out this important work.
“I intend to pursue an agenda built around these three major themes. I look forward to working with our members to find ways to do that. And I’m eager to hear Secretary Albright’s views on where we go from here to build a successful foreign policy.”
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