Congress biggest challenge to US foreign policy: Kerry
CHARLOTTESVILLE- Agence France-Presse
Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he delivers his first foreign policy speech in Old Cabel Hall at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Feb. 20 against “senseless” spending cuts to diplomacy, saying the United States needed robust engagement to remain an “exceptional” nation.
In his first speech since taking over as the top U.S. diplomat, the former longtime senator focused on the latest fiscal showdown between the White House and Congress and the threat of massive automatic spending cuts on March 1.
Declaring that “deploying diplomats today is much cheaper than deploying troops tomorrow,” Kerry said, “In many ways, the greatest challenge to America’s foreign policy today is in the hands not of diplomats, but of policymakers in Congress.”
“My credibility as a diplomat working to help other countries create order is strongest when America at last puts its own fiscal house in order, and that has to be now,” Kerry said at the University of Virginia. “Think about it: It’s hard to tell the leadership of any number of countries that they have to resolve their economic issues if we don’t resolve our own,” he said. “Let’s reach a responsible agreement that prevents these senseless cuts. Let’s not lose this opportunity because of politics.”
Crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Mali
Kerry delivered the speech four days before he heads off on his first foreign trip as secretary of state, visiting nine countries in Europe and the Middle East, including Turkey, to reconnect with allies and discuss hotspots such as Syria.
Kerry, a former presidential candidate and the son of a diplomat, said that the United States had the ability to encourage stability around the world, preventing failed states that were “among our greatest security threats.” Kerry pointed to crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Mali as resulting from the international community “losing interest.” As a senator, Kerry spearheaded a bill that authorized $7.5 billion over five years in civilian aid to Pakistan.
Highlighting that foreign affairs counted for only one percent of federal spending, Kerry vowed to fight not only on behalf of U.S. businesses, but also to promote U.S. “values” and assistance in everything from AIDS to human trafficking. “Foreign assistance is not a giveaway. It is not charity. It is an investment in a strong America and a free world,” he said.
“The State Department’s conflict stabilization budget is about $60 million a year now. That’s how much the movie ‘The Avengers’ took in on a single Sunday last May. The difference is that the folks that we have on the ground doing this job are actually the real superheroes.”
4,700 ‘killed’ in drone strikes
WASHINGTON – Agence France-Presse
A U.S. senator has said an estimated 4,700 people, including some civilians, have been killed in the contentious bombing raids of America’s secretive drone war, local media reported Feb. 20.
“We’ve killed 4,700,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, was quoted as saying by the Easley Patch, a local website in South
“Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda,” Graham has said.
It was the first time a lawmaker or any government representative had referred to a total number of fatalities in the drone strikes, which have been condemned by rights groups as extrajudicial assassinations.