Hill Event Wrap-Up: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on U.S. National Security Challenges

March 13, 2015

Yesterday, the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) and the American Action Forum (AAF) hosted a conversation with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) about the growing security threats facing the United States. The senator addressed a range of topics, including the importance of rebuilding America’s military, U.S. strategy to defeat ISIL, and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
FPI believes that the video of the event and the following quotes will be helpful for policymakers, lawmakers, and the general public to understand the challenges currently facing U.S. national security.

On Defending America in a Perilous World

“I’ve never been more worried about an attack on our homeland than I am today. There are more terrorist organizations, with more capabilities, with more arms, with more recruits, with more safe havens, to attack the United States than any time before 9/11. A perfect storm is brewing to hit our country and our allies. We have a weak and indecisive commander-in-chief, whose strategy of leading from behind has put the world on fire. We have a completely dysfunctional Congress that has set in place defense and intelligence budget cuts that reduce our capabilities and capacity to defend the nation at a time we need it the most.”
“Here’s how you defend America: you’ve got to have capability, capacity, and will. Without capability and capacity, the ability to defend this great nation is going to be compromised. I am not looking for a fair fight in the future. I am looking for an overwhelming advantage against any enemy we may face. I am looking for capabilities the enemy does not possess and large enough amounts that we can deal with more than one threat at a time.” 

On the Budget Control Act (BCA) and Sequestration
“At a time when radical Islam is on the march, rogue nations like Iran, North Korea, and Russia are building up their capabilities, China is expanding their military influencing their neighbors through intimidation, the Congress has decided to put in place budget cuts that would reduce our military capabilities to all time modern lows.” 
“To my Republican friends, Ronald Reagan must be rolling over in his grave, because what you did in conjunction with Democrats is you set in place a mechanism [through the Budget Control Act] for the destruction of the Department of Defense and other defense assets at a time we need them the most. In other words, the Republican Party abandoned its traditional view that defense spending and defending the United States is not one of many functions the federal government engages in; it is the key function.”
“I’m going to let the Republican Party know that if I cannot see a pathway forward in replacing sequestration in a reasonable fashion, I will vote ‘no’ to a budget deal that in the end spends less money on defense than Barack Obama.”

On Defeating ISIL
“As to ISIL, unless you deal with them in Syria, you’ll never be successful in Iraq. I will not support the authorization for use of military force drafted by the Obama administration. It was crystal clear yesterday in the [Senate Foreign Relations Committee] hearing with Senator [Bob] Corker that the authorization is fatally flawed. The current strategy is to train the Free Syrian Army to go into Syria and destroy ISIL. People are volunteering for that job, but they will eventually turn on Assad because he has destroyed their country. I asked a simple question: What happens to the Free Syrian Army members we’ve trained when they go into Syria and fight ISIL, and Assad sees one day they will turn on him and he launches an air attack. Can we defend the people we trained? And they said no. So any authorization to use force that will not allow us to neutralize the air threats that any group going into Syria would face from Assad is not only militarily unsound; it is immoral and it shows that the president doesn’t have the will to destroy ISIL.”

On the Dangers of a Nuclear-Armed Iran 
“If they get a nuclear capability, it will empty Pandora’s Box — that’s the world in which we live. A nuclear capable Iran will lead to a nuclear arms race in a region where we need that the least. Every Sunni Arab state that has the capability will possess a weapon of their own over time and it’s just a matter of time that technology falls into some terrorist hands. Our worst nightmare of all is a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and a bad deal with Iran will ensure that.”

On the Roles of the U.N. and Congress in Iran Negotiations

“If we put all our hopes and dreams in the United Nations, that would be a mistake. While it is a body that is trying to do good things, it doesn’t have such a good record when it comes to regulating rogue regimes like North Korea, Iran or any other group. So I would find it almost incredible for this construct to occur. … The United Nations sure as hell is not going to eliminate congressional sanctions.”

“To the president: you will not deal us out when it comes to the Iranian negotiations. I will help you where I can, but I will not sit on the sidelines and allow you to negotiate an end to congressional sanctions without congressional input.” 

On a Good Deal with Iran
“What is a good deal? You’ll know it when you see it. The Arabs and the Israelis will give you some idea of what a good deal is. A good deal would be a small enrichment program that could not mature into an industrial-sized nuclear weapons enrichment program, that is small in nature, that is controlled so it could never break out. A good deal would be no highly enriched uranium left in Iran, like the U.N. called for. A good deal would be no plutonium-producing reactor. A good deal would be a peaceful nuclear power program and not a weapons program.”

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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