A Case for Restraint: Bipartisan Cooperation on U.S. Foreign Policy

By: DONALD KEYS

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representatives Walter Jones (R-NC) and Ro Khanna (D-CA) spoke at SAIS on Tuesday, March 6.  The talk on bipartisan cooperation in American foreign policy was moderated by Dean Vali Nasr. Both congressmen serve on the Armed Services Committee.

The tone of the forum was very amicable as the Democratic and Republican Members of Congress praised each other’s accomplishments so far in office. They disagreed on fundamental aspects of U.S. activities overseas, but were united in the desire for more public debate on the subject.

They were each given ten minutes to speak about an area of their choice. Representative Jones spent his time talking about Afghanistan and his efforts to get Congress to debate U.S. involvement in the region. Representative Khanna spoke on U.S. involvement in Yemen and how restraint in use of force does not equal becoming isolationist.

Dean Nasr asked the congressmen why they believed congressional leadership did not allow for U.S. foreign involvement to be debated in the House. Representative Jones pointed to lobbying efforts, bringing up websites like opensecrets.org that show how much lobbying is done by “the military industrial complex.” Representative Khanna felt that the post-9/11 political culture has encouraged politicians to take a tough stance on terrorism and call upon the country, to “figure out how to separate counter terrorism from interventionism.”

Dean Nasr, noting the struggles of SAIS students, asked about the perception that the global influence of the State Department was weakening, and whether Congress could do anything to help. Representative Khanna felt that “We as a country need to recognize the value of diplomacy of statesmanship” Representative Jones argued that it is up to the president to rebuild the system to benefit diplomacy.

An audience member inquired about how economic tools could replace military options. Representative Jones commented that “it is too easy for us not to lay out a plan for the diplomatic side.” Representative Khanna brought up the Marshall Plan as an example of how economic tools can be successful.

Another audience member asked what military spending would look like in Afghanistan now that the Taliban is becoming an official political party. Representative Jones stated, “We have no accountability with the money we spend in Afghanistan.” This is due to DoD spending bills mixing the spending for foreign engagements with the money allocated to raise troop salaries.

Russia’s recent involvement in Afghanistan has also complicated the political and security situation in the region, and Republicans and Democrats are in agreement that current U.S. foreign policy is not effective. For that reason, both congressmen agreed that U.S. representatives need to take an active role in shaping the future of U.S. foreign policy.

Dean Nasr thanked both men and the audience for their time. It remains to be seen if debate will be allowed in Congress on this topic.

Donald “DC” Keys is an MIEF student. When not digging into data he enjoys playing League of Legends and writing.