The United States faces unprecedented challenges abroad. The post-colonial status quo in the Middle East is breaking down, and terrorist groups such as Islamic State (also called ISIS) and al Qaeda present a grave threat to U.S. national security. Traditional powers such as Russia and China are challenging international norms and pushing the boundaries of their influence. And threats that know no borders—such as pandemic disease and global climate change—continue to grow. The world has been fundamentally reordered, but the United States’ foreign policy toolbox has gone largely unchanged during this time of immense global transition.
The new world order demands that the United States think anew about the tools that it will use to lead the world, including reaching beyond the military budget to rediscover the power of non-kinetic statecraft. As relatively new members of the U.S. Senate on the Foreign Relations, Appropriations, Armed Services, and Intelligence Committees, we believe that Congress needs to help chart a new course to meet these challenges and play a more active role to help shape foreign policy coming out of the executive branch. Toward that end, we offer a set of forward-looking and pragmatic principles that should guide U.S. foreign policy and Congress’ foreign policy agenda.
First, we believe that the United States needs a new Marshall Plan for at-risk regions. In the years following World War II, the promise of military protection, economic aid, and democratic ideals brought together reliable allies under the American banner. Since then, foreign aid, as a percentage of U.S. GDP, has declined. Now is the time to reinvest in this work, as countries under the economic thumb of Russia or China, and communities seeking protection from extremist groups, are crying out for help that smart, nimble U.S. foreign aid can provide. We should create a five-year plan to significantly improve quality of life in developing Middle Eastern and African nations threatened by terrorism, as well as vulnerable nations near Russia
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