Working in Congress during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 taught me, first and foremost, the importance of military readiness and a strong defense.
It also taught me the value of diplomacy and strategic alliances in promoting peace, human rights, and global security for the U.S. and our allies.
The world can be a tough and dangerous place, but America's interests and allies are worth fighting for.
That means continuing and strengthening our alliances through NATO and our partners around the globe.
Our global challenges are vast, but not insurmountable. So, while there are serious concerns with the development towards nuclear weapons in Iran, North Korea and other non-democratic nations, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) offers a narrow and fragile path towards deescalating Iran’s weaponization of nuclear materials. While America must remain committed to the agreement, we must also pursue our own security interests if Iran fails to comply with the JCPOA terms, or in any way threatens our security, or the security of our allies.
The United States must also commit all available resources to protect and strengthen our alliances against terrorism, increase our domestic and international efforts against hate crimes and extremism, and support democratic nations that recognize human and civil rights. Among them, the United States has no greater ally in the Middle East and against terrorism than the democratic nation of Israel, who's Qualified Military Edge is critical to U.S. security, and security and stability throughout the region. Our support for international democracies and against bigotry and antisemitism must remain unshakable. It's why I strongly opposed the recent effort, which sought to entangle the state of Maryland in an international boycott using state dollars -- not against the nation of Israel, but specifically against Israeli universities. That's also why, in response to recent acts of hate and bigotry against Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians in Maryland, I authored the new Security Grant program (now law) to protect schools, child care and community centers in Maryland (SB1191). In doing so, we spoke with a resounding voice that hatred and bigotry against any American has no place here and will not be tolerated. And abroad, we must remain resolved to use all available means to address the many humanitarian and refugee crises in Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Yemen, and many others. As the moral power center on the international stage, the U.S. must use that stature and opportunity to advance human rights, civil rights, peace and security at home and throughout the globe. That's an awesome responsibility, but one that I believe we are up to.
On a very personal note, I traveled to Israel on an official U.S. Congressional Delegation in 2005 during Israel's historic "disengagement" from settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. During that visit, I met with negotiators from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which left me with a powerful and emotional understanding that it is incumbent upon the United States to work for peace and stability throughout the region toward a two-state agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, without preconditions or interference from other self-interested actors. That dream of peace, while elusive, is very much in my heart.
With strong support from Congress, and some hope and resolve from us all, I believe that such an agreement is possible.