Martin O'Malley photo

Remarks at the TruCon15 Conference in Washington, DC

June 25, 2015

I. Introduction

Thank you for having me here today.

For more than a decade, the Truman National Security Project has been at the forefront of nurturing a new generation of leaders in foreign policy and national security.

From military bases in San Diego to federal agencies in Washington, you are not only advocating for a strong, smart, principled approach to international affairs—you are taking action, every day.

Through Operation Free, you are mobilizing a coalition of veterans, activists, and experts who know our reliance on fossil fuels threatens the security of our country.

Through No Exceptions, you are working to make sure that our military recruits the most talented Americans—regardless of gender.

And through the Frontline Civilians Initiative, you are supporting the diplomats, journalists, NGO workers and development professionals who are not in uniform, but who nonetheless put their lives on the line to alleviate human suffering.

Thanks to all of you, the Truman Project has emerged as a valuable source of ideas on the toughest challenges facing our nation today.

And we need those bold ideas now, more than ever.

II. America's Role In The World

America's role in the world is to advance the cause of a rising global middle class— free from oppression, free from want, free from fear.

But after twelve years on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan...

....and after a global financial crisis and long recession that our people are still struggling to recover from... is understandable that many Americans would like to disengage from the world.

Understandable, but not responsible.

Because our country's security—and our children's prosperity—demand that we be more engaged with the world around us, not less.

We do this primarily by making our nation more prosperous and secure here at home.

And we do this by exercising our economic, diplomatic, military, and healing power around the world, in ways that are consistent with our moral principles.

In essence:

We must create a more far-sighted and a more pro-active foreign policy—based on engagement and collaboration, rather than going it alone.

And we must construct a new framework for our national security strategy, focused on the reduction of threats.

Today's challenges defy easy solutions. We may have the most sophisticated military in history, but we do not have a silver bullet.

This morning, I want to share a vision for a more agile, innovative, and forward-thinking approach, one that will enable us to master the challenges of our times—rather than falling victim to them.

My purpose here today is not to offer soundbite solutions to a laundry list of crises.

My purpose here today is to lay out a long-term framework for pursuing our national interests in a fast-changing world.

III. History

A little bit of important history.

As America and her allies brought World War II to a close, a plain-spoken man named Harry Truman became our President.

Having fought in the First World War, Truman knew something about courage, about service, and about sacrifice.

It was Truman who concluded World War II.

It was Truman who brought forward the Marshall Plan that would turn our former enemies into democratic allies.

It was Truman who led the United States to recognize Israel immediately upon her founding.

And it was Truman who crafted and signed into law the National Security Act of 1947— the most lasting overhaul of our National Security strategies and institutions.

We must take the broader lessons of what worked in Truman's day—and apply them to the emerging threats of our own time.

Because today, we face an equally daunting array of threats.

These threats are much different and far more complex than those of the 1990's.

Violent extremism. Nuclear proliferation. Pandemics. Cyber-attacks.

Rising inequality. Failed nation-states. The mega-droughts, famines, and floods caused by climate change.

And more refugees than at any time since World War II.

It is time for a New National Security Act—one focused on the reduction of threats like these.

IV. Key Questions 

Understanding precedes action.

To understand, we must ask the right questions.

Among them:

How do we balance the use of our military, diplomatic, and economic tools to advance our national interests, in ways that are consistent with our most deeply held American values?

What enhanced roles might institutions like the Defense Threat Reduction Agency or the Centers for Disease Control play in looking over the horizon—to alert us earlier to emerging threats?

What are the forward-looking investments and new alliances we can make—with other nations—that will stem the root causes of instability?

And how can we best prepare to defend ourselves from our enemies—while doing all we can to prevent conflict in the first place?

IV. Protecting The People Of The United States

The first and foremost responsibility of the President of the United States is to protect the American people.

Today, this means transforming our military's force structure to focus on 21st-century challenges.

It means protecting our privacy and our security at the same time.

It means reducing security threats not only with better technology, but with better human intelligence.

It means transforming the way we partner with the private sector and civil society—harnessing the energy and talents of the American people to advance our values.

It means joining with allies to deploy renewable energy technologies—both at home and around the world—to confront the very real and present danger of potentially irreversible climate change.

It means understanding that comprehensive immigration reform is both an economic and a national security imperative.

It means protecting the United States from cyber attacks on the digital battlefields of servers and smartphones.

It means re-thinking how we deal with nations like Russia and China—which are neither trusted allies nor total adversaries.

It means forging a New Alliance for Progress right here in our own American hemisphere, which we have under-valued and neglected for far too long.

And it means forming regional partnerships to address emerging threats—in places like the South China Sea, the Arctic, and the sea lanes of the Middle East.

There is urgent work to be done.

V. Climate Change

Nowhere is this more collaborative approach more important than in confronting the growing and immediate challenge of severe climate change.

For years, the Pentagon has recognized global warming as an urgent national security threat.

Your organization's leader—former Army Captain Mike Breen—put it best at a recent Congressional hearing, when he said:

"Over 97 percent of climate scientists say that man-made climate change is a reality."

"As a combat leader, if 97 percent of my intelligence indicated that I was about to face a lethal danger that would risk the lives of my paratroopers—I would be committing unconscionable malpractice if I did not listen and act."

Mike is right.

The energy technologies needed to combat climate change exist today—it's only the political will that is lacking.

America can, and must, lead the way—by pursuing an ambitious plan to ensure our country is powered 100 percent by clean energy, by 2050.

Climate change is not only a very real existential threat to human life, it is also the greatest business opportunity to come to our country in a hundred years.

We must seize this opportunity by creating an American Green Jobs Agenda that is a match for the climate challenge.

We need to invest in resilience—from the Jersey Shore to California's Central Valley.

We need to spur innovation—to develop cutting-edge technologies that will create jobs at home, and unlock new markets abroad.

We need to embrace new ideas at the state level, as we have in Maryland— where, in just eight years, we increased renewable energy capacity by 57 percent, became a clean-tech jobs hub, and cut carbon emissions by 10 percent.

America's leadership and example are essential.

Because climate change is a global challenge—with global consequences. It is the transformation that transforms everything.

And by confronting this challenge, we can realize global economic opportunities—and job opportunities—for the United States.

We must partner with emerging markets, in our own hemisphere and beyond, to distribute renewable energy solutions and green design.

We must aggressively push for global emissions agreements in venues like the upcoming UN climate summit in Paris.

And we must seed, scale, and deploy American-made renewable energy technologies throughout the world.

To reduce mankind's carbon footprint.

To preserve the living systems of this earth—for ourselves and our posterity.

VI. Trade

Like climate change, trade is a global challenge. And it also has global consequences.

In our closely connected world, prosperity is not a zero-sum game.

While the cause of a rising global middle class is vital to our long-term economic and national security, our power is grounded in the strength, here at home, of our own middle class.

What gain for the United States can be found in secret trade deals that fast track the export of American jobs, and undermine wages for American workers?

Trade deals that raise standards for workers and the environment are good for the United States.

Trade deals that lower standards for workers and the environment are bad for the United States.

This is not a call for protectionism.

It is a call for fair competition—the kind that is consistent with our most deeply held American values.

The national interest of the People of the United States of America is not measured by the bottom-line profits of multi-national corporations—however large.

No nation ever off-shored its way to greatness.

To rebuild the American Dream, we must stop making it easier to ship American jobs abroad and start making better investments to grow our economy, here at home.

VII. Cyber 

One such investment is cybersecurity— a new domain that is both an emerging opportunity and an emerging challenge to every facet of our society.

For centuries, nation-states sought to protect themselves from attacks by land and sea. And later, from attacks by air.

Now, in the information age, we must move to defend ourselves—and our economy—from attacks carried out through the Internet.

Last year, global cyberattacks jumped by nearly 50 percent.

Stolen intellectual property and other opportunities lost to cybercrime could cost us as many as 200,000 American jobs annually.

And our critical infrastructure remains extremely vulnerable to hackers.

Nuclear power plants, public transportation, air traffic control, water systems, and even the electric grid itself—all are in danger of being shut down with a few lines of malicious code.

The harm would extend far beyond just the loss of our personal data—it could grind our national and metro economies to a halt.

We must develop and follow-through on a comprehensive new agenda for cybersecurity that protects every level of our society.

To accomplish this goal, we must harness the skills of American engineers, designers, and scholars—from Silicon Valley to Fort Meade—to secure our networks.

And we must empower our National Guard with a new mission—the mission of protecting our cyber-networks in the Homeland—on a state-by-state level.

I have seen this need firsthand.

As the President's appointed co-chair of the Council of Governors—a group charged by an Act of Congress to work with the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security—I advocated for a new national initiative to recruit, equip, and train cybersecurity units in every state's National Guard.

These are highly-paid skills in the private sector.

And the quickest and most cost-effective way to stand up this capacity is in the citizen-soldier context of every state's National Guard.

Furthermore, National Guard Cyber Units are best suited under our Constitution for the Homeland mission of collaborating with public and private sector partners to protect vital networks.

VIII. Sustainable Development

Like cybersecurity, sustainable development is a national security imperative. It requires a long-term commitment to advance the cause of a rising global middle class.

This is not a fanciful dream. Hard-won progress is being made.

Inspired by the Millennium Development Goals, the United States—in partnership with the global community—has cut extreme poverty and child deaths in half over the past 25 years: one of the greatest measurable leaps ever achieved in human prosperity and health.

And yet, still more than a billion people in Asia, Africa and Latin America live on less than $1.25 a day—all of them vulnerable to the scourge of extreme poverty and violent extremism.

Is it any surprise that, in Liberia—a country with just one medical school and meager hospital supplies—more than 10,000 people were infected with Ebola?

Is it any surprise that, in Honduras—a country with the world's highest murder rate and the most brutal drug trafficking—that thousands of people have fled for their lives, in our own hemisphere?

Our leadership—in collaboration with other nations—is essential.

To be successful, we must involve more Americans from all walks of life in the cause of development—scientists and students; entrepreneurs and security experts; business executives and urban planners.

We must better integrate our development and military teams—ensuring that we are tailoring our assistance to get things done within the local culture.

We must support American businesses that project our values in emerging markets.

We must adequately fund our diplomatic and development agencies—particularly USAID and the State Department.

And we must achieve the goal of ending extreme poverty, hunger, and preventable child and maternal death—all within the next 15 years.

By promoting open societies—and by protecting the dignity of human lives in fragile states—we not only build the next generation of political and economic partners,...

...we also reduce the threat of our being drawn into more costly conflicts in the decades to come.

As James Mattis, the former Commander of U.S. Central Command, put it bluntly: "If you don't fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition."

IX. Managing The Most Immediate Security Threats 

Development, Defense, and Diplomacy must stand together as equal and essential parts of our national security.

They are also critical in reducing threats in what may be the most volatile and dangerous area in the world today: the Middle East.

Over these last several years, I have had the opportunity to talk with dozens of patriotic Americans who have given their energies and talents in this troubled region of our world.

I agree with noted national security expert Phil Gordon's conclusions on our core national interests in the Middle East:

To protect our allies and prevent regional war.

To keep sea lanes open and provide humanitarian assistance.

To prevent terrorist safe havens. And to prevent nuclear proliferation.

Indeed, a nuclear-armed Iran is one of the most immediate threats we face.

I believe negotiations are the best way to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon,...the best way to avoid even greater conflict in the region,...and the best way to stop widespread nuclear proliferation across the Middle East.

It was for this purpose that the United States forged an unprecedented international partnership—including Russia and China—to apply the strongest set of sanctions Iran has ever faced.

Those sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table.

If we reach a verifiable, enforceable agreement that cuts off Iran's multiple pathways to a weapon—and its ability to sprint to a bomb—Congress would be wise to support it.

And if Iran is found to be cheating, its leaders must know that we stand ready to reinstate the full array of sanctions that decimated their economy.

X. Containing, Degrading and Confronting ISIS 

But no threat better illustrates the unintended consequences of a mindless rush to war—and a lack of understanding—than the emergence of ISIS.

Containing, degrading, and defeating ISIS will require an integrated approach—an approach focused not only on military power, but on political solutions.

The invasion of Iraq—along with the subsequent disbanding of the Iraqi military—will be remembered as one of the most tragic, deceitful, and costly blunders in U.S. history.

We are still paying the price of a war pursued under false pretenses and acquiesced to by "the appalling silence of the good."

In confronting ISIS, we must avoid mission creep—and be mindful that American boots on the ground can be counter-productive to our desired outcome.

We will not be successful in degrading ISIS if the number of militants taken off the battlefield is exceeded by the number of new recruits replacing them.

But we must also ensure that our partners have what they need to contain, degrade, and ultimately defeat ISIS.

In partnership with other nations in the region and across the world, we must counter ISIS propaganda and use our own communications tools more effectively.

We must do more to amplify credible, local voices in the region to reveal ISIS for what it is: a gang of murderous thugs who have perverted the name of one of the world's great religions.

And we must make every effort to encourage the Iraqi government to govern more inclusively, as they train up a new army with committed leadership, and a will to defend their own country.

XI. New Times Require New Relationships And Better Intelligence 

Addressing threats like ISIS will require new relationships and better human intelligence.

This is also true in every other theater of engagement.

There is no substitute for human relationships and the work of patriotic Americans in our foreign service, and our national security agencies.

To succeed in a world of rapid change, we must adapt our national security institutions to better anticipate fast-emerging threats.

And we must recognize that there are real lessons to be learned from the tragedy in Benghazi:

Namely, we need to know in advance who is likely to take power—or vie for it—once a dictator is toppled.

Twitter and Facebook are no substitute for personal relationships and human intelligence.

We must recruit and retain a new generation of talented American diplomats.

And we must give them the tools to identify and engage with a new generation of leaders from different walks of life—often in hostile environments where we lack historic ties; where we lack relationships.

That was the work that Ambassador Chris Stevens was about. He gave his life reaching out to those emerging from the rubble of Qaddaffi's dictatorship.

In remembering him, his grieving father said:

"He died doing what he loved most—working to build bridges of understanding and mutual respect between the people of the United States and the people of the Middle East."

"Chris was successful because he embodied the traits that have always endeared America to the world—a commitment to democratic principles, and respect for others, regardless of race, religion or culture."

XII. Strength At Home

The greatest power we possess as Americans is just that: the power of our principles.

We project that power around the world primarily through our own example—of the inclusive society and inclusive economy we build here at home.

The challenges we face today: to rebuild the American Dream at home, craft a new foreign policy of engagement and collaboration, refocus our National Security Strategy on 21st century threats,...

...these challenges are all connected, and their pursuits are mutually reinforcing of one another.

But ultimately, the source of America's global strength is our own prosperity at home.

Our economy isn't money. Our economy is people—all of our people.

Only with a stronger and more inclusive economy can we maintain our security.

Only with a stronger and more inclusive American economy, will we succeed in pursuing a more effective foreign policy for the cause that we lead: of a rising global middle class—free from oppression, want, and fear.

XIII. Conclusion

In thinking deeply about America's role in the world, I find myself drawing inspiration from the very troubled world that my parents' generation tamed, and the planet they saved from the brink of nuclear annihilation.

My parents were born during the Great Depression. They were part of the great generation of Americans that went on to win the Second World War.

My dad flew 33 missions over Japan in a B-24 Liberator, and went to college only because of the GI Bill. Mom flew in the Civil Air Patrol at the age of seventeen.

They raised their children—the six of us—in a world secured by the sacrifices and the better choices of their generation.

We must remember the abiding truth of their success—that our strength abroad depends upon our strength at home.

No fighter jet or troop battalion will keep us as safe as a vibrant economy, a strong democracy, and a growing middle class.

By restoring an American economy that works for ALL of us again,...

....we will make ourselves a more prosperous and a more secure nation.

We will give our children a future with more opportunity, rather than less.

And we will make our planet a healthier, more peaceful, and more just place for all of humanity.

These are the ambitions worthy of a truly great people.

This is why I am running for President of the United States.

Thank you.

Related Images

NOTE: As prepared for delivery.

Martin O'Malley, Remarks at the TruCon15 Conference in Washington, DC Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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