Don’t allow Donald Trump to decimate the budget for diplomacy. As his Defense Secretary, James Mattis, once said: “If you don’t fund the state department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition…” Trump has no idea what diplomacy does. He only understands brute force, and only admires brutal autocrats. And as a wise person once said: if all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Our job in Congress must be to prevent conflict, not stoke it. And service members and their families are the first to get this. Preventing it means not only smart and careful diplomacy to recognize the warning signs and negotiate de-escalation and nonviolent resolution, but also looking further upstream to the root causes of conflict.
Two fundamental drivers of conflict are population growth and climate change – issues which my wife, Christy, and I have spent decades working to mitigate. Adding another billion people to the planet, while allowing climate change to flood vast swaths of low-lying land, from Miami to Manhattan to Bangladesh – or to ruin vast arable lands with drought, fire and deforestation – is a recipe for mass migration, refugees, political upheaval, competition for scarce life-sustaining resources, and ultimately violent conflict. The most important things we can do to avoid conflict and global war is to intelligently manage these twin pressures of unchecked population growth and climate-driven devastation.
When it comes to matters of war and peace, I would introduce legislation putting teeth in the Constitution’s mandate that only Congress has the power to declare war. It would specifically prohibit any person in the nuclear chain of command from implementing a nuclear-launch order from the President in the absence of an explicit congressional authorization and would establish a process for rapid congressional review. This would allow the dedicated public servants in the nuclear chain of command to refuse to implement an unlawful order from the President without fear of punishment from their Commander in Chief.