Senator Graham On American Engagement

June 17, 2011 By Phil Jackson

On Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) strongly emphasized the importance of continuing to invest in the smart power tools of development and diplomacy in a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.  Sen. Graham recently returned from eight days in Afghanistan and specifically addressed the situation there, as well as broader developments in the region including the Arab Spring.

Sen. Graham, the Ranking Member of the Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, praised the level of cooperation between civilian and military efforts in Afghanistan, saying “it is the robust I have ever seen.”  He also made clear that a comprehensive, smart power strategy is critical to achieving our national security objectives and success in Afghanistan, saying, “The civilian partners in this effort to secure Afghanistan are as important as any brigade we have.” 

He warned that this critical partnership between civilian and military efforts is in danger, saying, “The military-civilian partnership is not going to survive if Congress becomes an isolationist body.  Now is the time, after Bin Laden’s death, to pour it on.”  Sen. Graham then challenged Congress, saying, “What I would like to see this summer is Congress to fully fund the civilian side as well as the military side.”

Moving to the subject of the wider region as a whole, Sen. Graham said, “I see Afghanistan, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen as incredible opportunities to change the world for the better” and responded to calls by some in Congress to avoid engagement with the region in the wake of the Arab Spring by saying, “Isolationism is not a viable strategy in the 21st century for the United States.”  He stressed that he hopes Americans will see assistance packages for these countries as national security investments that are important, even in such a challenging budget environment.

Sen. Graham’s speech made a compelling case for smart power as a critical element in keeping us safe. “Military force,” he repeatedly argued, “is just one component of what it takes to win this war on terror.”