From ISIS to Russia to Iran, the United States is facing the most complex foreign policy landscape since World War II. Globalization has brought the impact of entrenched regional and ideological conflicts to our shores more quickly than ever before. At the same time, technological advancements have brought new hope to persistent and universal problems, from hunger and disease to poverty and human rights. We must navigate growing interconnection and interdependence as we shape U.S. foreign policy. This reality presents challenges and opportunities that will define our place in the world for generations to come.
Over the past several years we have suffered the repercussions of a misguided war in Iraq and are winding down a long and costly war in Afghanistan. While we have made enormous strides against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups who wish us harm, we still face enemies who pose a grave threat to our country and her allies.
As a globe, we continue to struggle against centuries-old regional conflicts that have found modern context: the rise of the Islamic State, an increasingly horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria, and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a time of such dramatic upheaval, the world needs steady leadership. For the United States, this is a responsibility and opportunity.
We must stay engaged with allies and adversaries alike. Our national security depends on active diplomatic efforts. There are no easy answers when it comes to the conflicts around the world, but withdrawal from these situations leaves a dramatic leadership void that can quickly be filled by terrorist groups looking to gain a foothold and recruit new members.
Our allies, of course, are more critical than ever especially in the Middle East. Israel and the United States have been united by shared values for generations. In 2013 I introduced legislation to honor Israeli President Shimon Peres with the Congressional Gold Medal, in recognition of the friendship deeply embedded between our two countries. We must continue to stand by Israel and defend her right to protect her citizens, as we encourage, support, and facilitate a two-state solution that might finally bring an end to this heartbreaking conflict.
As we navigate these ever-changing conflicts, we must do all we can to promote our values of freedom, liberty and justice across the globe whether that means promoting the rights of women in Afghanistan or children in South Sudan. Our diplomats, service men and women, and foreign aid workers abroad have done tremendous work encouraging our ideals and bringing the light of social justice and opportunity to areas that need it most. International aid remains an important tool to combat hunger, poverty and disease, epidemics that are universal in their human cost and economic damage. Programs like the Peace Corps and the Millennium Challenge Corporation are some of the best investments we can make as we send American men and women to some of the world’s most impoverished areas to deliver hands-on assistance and care. As a former Peace Corps volunteer in Latin America, I was proud to introduce the Peace Corps Commemoration Act during my first year in Congress and see it signed into law by President Obama in 2014.
The United States’ leadership in health care, advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, clean energy and defense makes us a natural champion for strong and integrated global markets. Partnerships of this kind can be and should be used to bring the stabilizing presence of economic opportunity to areas that need it most. The number of young people facing little to no economic mobility in conflict zones around the world provides fertile ground for terrorist organizations and violent groups looking to take root. If we can leverage our own economic strengths to light new pathways for these youth to participate in the global economy and in their own civil societies, we will slowly but surely lay groundwork for renewed stability and prosperity.