BIDEN Outlines Foreign Relations Committee Agenda and Priorities
At a press conference today in the U.S. Capitol, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) outlined the Foreign Relations Committee agenda and priorities for the coming months and year.
"This is a time for a fundamental re-assessment of America's position in the world and the policies we're pursuing to strengthen that position. This administration's basic approach to foreign policy and national security has been bankrupted by reality. Its fixation on military preemption,' regime change' and simplistic slogans like the war on terror' has made America less secure. So has its failure to connect the dots - to understand how its actions in one place can have profound consequences for America's interests in another place," said Senator Biden.
"As a result, the next president will take office facing an almost unprecedented series of challenges, with little margin for error. This Committee can make a real contribution by handing off to the next president a better approach to our nation's security, as well as very concrete ideas for dealing with the specific challenges we face. At the same time, we have to deal with the crises and challenges that are right in front of us, and that this administration and this Congress must confront," added Sen. Biden.
I. Immediate Agenda
Sen. Biden outlined what he sees as the "immediate challenges" for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Darfur, the Balkans, Iraq, Iran, North Korea and HIV-AIDS.
Afghanistan and Pakistan:
"We'll start with a hard look at Afghanistan, including an assessment by the intelligence community and a public hearing. The war is winnable - but we are not winning. This Committee has a key role to play in helping to shape a new strategy for success. Afghanistan's fate is directly tied to Pakistan's future - and so is our security. I've been saying for some time we must move from a Musharraf policy to a Pakistan policy, and so we'll be looking at the elements of that policy," said Sen. Biden.
"While other issues may be more prominent, Darfur is arguably the most urgent," said Sen. Biden. "The hybrid UN/AU force took over January 1, 2008 but only about 10,000 of the 26,000-strong force is in the country. We will be looking hard and fast at what it will take to get all the peacekeepers on the ground and strategies for achieving a long term peace."
"Kosovo's provisional government is poised to declare independence from Serbia next month. It's a moment fraught with peril and we need to make sure there is a policy in place for averting a crisis and promoting real progress not just for Kosovo, but for Bosnia and Serbia, too," said Sen. Biden.
"This Committee has held dozens of hearings on Iraq, starting six months before the war. Virtually every problem we've encountered was predicted by someone in the course of our hearings - and at every critical juncture, we offered concrete ideas for changing course," said Sen. Biden. "We will continue our close oversight of the administration's policies and plans. And I will continue to push for the administration to adopt what Congress overwhelmingly approved this week: the Biden-Gelb plan that would allow us to leave Iraq without trading a dictator for chaos."
North Korea, Iran, Middle East Peace Process:
"The Committee will also focus on the status of North Korea's disarmament commitments; on a strategy for dealing with the challenges posed by Iran; and on prospects for advancing peace between Israelis and Palestinians as well as related issues like Syria and Lebanon," said Sen. Biden.
"Finally, both Senator Lugar and I have made it a priority to reauthorize and strengthen the President's emergency program to combat HIV-AIDS, TB and Malaria," said Sen. Biden.
II. Long-term Agenda:
Sen. Biden then laid out the longer-term agenda for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "There are a number of critical, longer term issues that Senator Lugar and I plan to address this year."
Non-proliferation and Arms Control:
"We have a broad agenda on non-proliferation and arms control - nothing is more important to America's long term security," said Sen. Biden.
China, India and Russia:
"Our relationship with the three rising powers - China, India and Russia - has gotten short shrift. Each presents important opportunities but also real challenges that we must address," said Sen. Biden.
Energy and Climate Change:
"Senator Lugar and I have worked hard to focus this Committee on energy security and climate change - and we'll be pursuing those issues in depth, as well," said Sen. Biden. "And we plan to spend time on the relationship between development assistance and national security; on the so-called "Sovereign Wealth Fund" investments of foreign countries in the United States; and on more effective strategies to advance democracy and combat extremism.
"I have strongly encouraged the chairs of our sub-committees to be active and aggressive. Along with the full committee, they have been doing critical work on Africa, Latin America and Asia and on a host of functional issues - and that will continue," added Sen. Biden
"This is a time to recapture the totality of America's strength. Our military might is critical, but so is the power of our ideas and our ideals. I hope the Committee will put more of the focus back on those ideas and ideals - and give the next president a head start on reasserting America's leadership in the world," concluded Sen. Biden.