Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act of

Floor Speech

Date: Feb. 4, 2019
Location: Washington, DC


He makes a number of points that he has been making over the years that deserve serious consideration. I say this is something that deserves a debate. I agree with him that the President of the United States should be commended, not condemned, for raising these issues for a debate. Indeed, that is the purpose of this resolution.

As you know, this resolution is made up of many different parts, the most recent of which is the resolution that talks about the very things my good friend was speaking about. This resolution we have in front of us is not a rebuke or an insult to the President of the United States. Indeed, as I read it, it recognizes the President's efforts in this regard and recognizes his efforts for us to examine exactly what we are doing in these places, as Senator Paul has already so eloquently talked about.

I think there are a lot of people both in Congress and outside of Congress who recognize that after World War II, the United States was very successful in nation building. Whether or not you agreed with it-- and there is always a debate as to what our obligation is, how far we should go, and how much of the American taxpayers' money we should spend on nation building--we rebuilt Germany, we rebuilt Japan, and after the Korean war, we rebuilt South Korea, and we were very successful in that regard. Not only did we rebuild the nation itself, but we also trained the necessary police efforts there and military efforts for ongoing work.

Now, fast-forward to the Middle East and the difficulties we have had there. I don't think there is anyone who could stand up and successfully defend that this has been a successful nation-building effort in the areas Senator Paul referred to. Indeed, they have not been. My view is that before you can give something to somebody, they have to want it.

I think we have spent a couple of trillion dollars in Afghanistan. As Senator Paul pointed out, there are things going on there that are very difficult and no better than when we got there 17 years ago. Indeed, in some places, it is probably worse than when we got there 17 years ago. It is appropriate to have that debate as to whether we should continue nation building and whether we should continue to try to stand up and train fighting units in Afghanistan or, for that matter, in other places.

Senator Paul referred to only a minimum number of places where we have attempted to train fighters to fight like Americans. The fact is, they just don't. No matter how much training you give them and no matter what kind of equipment you give them, they just don't fight like America's finest.

In addition to that, Senator Paul correctly pointed out that in some instances in the Middle East, there are places where tribal disputes have gone on for centuries, and they are still going on. When you try to stand them up to do something else, they just don't do it. They may train, but they will not train to fight for what we want and for the kinds of values and cultures we have.

Having said all of that, again, I come back to what we are attempting to do here with the resolution we have in front of us, and that is, we are recognizing that President Trump has started this conversation, and we are encouraging him in that regard.

I note that in recent days the national media has delighted in saying that Congress is rebuking the President of the United States. I have a different view of this. The President of the United States, as the Commander in Chief, as the Chief Executive, started this conversation, and after the conversation was started, there have been numerous discussions--both internally within the executive branch and between the legislative branch and the executive branch--as to the issues the President raised and the issues my good friend Senator Paul was talking about. The result of that is the language we have in front of us that recognizes that the President of the United States started this conversation. It recognizes that he thinks we ought to be talking about some of these things, just as Senator Paul has raised and has debated, and we should continue talking about those.

So the purposes of the resolution are, I would urge, pretty much the opposite of what Senator Paul talks about when he says we are rebuking the President or criticizing the President or in any other way insulting the President. Indeed, nothing could be further from the truth. This progress--this process is working exactly the way it was intended to work, and that is for someone--in this case, the leader of the Nation--to raise these issues, and then discussions take place amongst all of the people who have an interest in this and everyone who believes they have some input into this, recognizing both the shortcomings and the successes of what we have had.

Certainly, the President is to be commended for what he has said about defeating the vast majority of ISIS. That group is a shadow of its former self. As Senator Paul noted, the vast majority of the land holdings it had have been taken back, so there is a great victory there. There is certainly more work to be done.

I agree with Senator Paul that this is a little bit like the laundry--it is never going to be completely done. As long as the Middle East exists, as long as there are people who are inclined to do this sort of thing, people who are radicals, this sort of thing is going to go on. Where I part company a bit with Senator Paul is that we can do things over there that will make us safer here.

Senator Paul is right. Intelligence plays a huge role in this. Indeed, had we had a better handle before 9/11, that could have been disrupted, just as we have disrupted many other efforts to attack the homeland, the vast majority of which the American people will never hear about.

In any event, I think we should all get behind this particular resolution. I think it encourages the President for the road that he is going down to take each of these elements, to look at them critically, and to determine what we need to do to continue to protect Americans.

When the President first rolled out this idea, one of the things I think is important is that I don't think he ever indicated that he was somehow going to withdraw from the Middle East and give up all the platforms that we have and that we must have if, indeed, we get something going on to a point like we had right before 9/11 where there were these training camps in Afghanistan that were training people to come to America and do what they did. If the intelligence people are able to determine that, then I think we need to be able to hit that with an operation that will dismantle it. It doesn't have to be a war that goes on for very long; indeed, many of these are 1-night operations. That is the way these things need to be handled.

In any event, I would urge everyone to get behind this particular resolution we have encouraging the President and encouraging people on all sides of the issue who have strong feelings about it, just as my good friend Senator Paul has, to get their two cents' worth in here and then we all work together to make this work right and not be pulling at each other and encouraging our enemies in that regard.

Mr. President, fellow Senators, again I part ways with my good friend Senator Paul on this one, to a large degree.

The speech he gave, I am in absolute agreement that the government should not be stopping any individual from boycotting whatever they want to boycott for whatever reason they want to boycott. This is America. You have the First Amendment right to do that, but I would draw attention to section 402, which simply states: ``Nonpreemption of measures by state and local governments to divest from entities that engage in certain boycott, divestment, or sanctions activities targeting Israel or persons doing business in Israel or Israel- controlled territories.''

Look, if an individual wants to do this, this is America. People can do what they want, but if a government--State or local government--is going to use taxpayer dollars to engage in anti-Israel activities, that is a different ball game. They are then using people's funds who disagree with what they want to do, and that is not right. State and local governments should not in any way be involved in boycotting other countries, particularly--particularly--a country that is one of the best friends we have in the world, really the only democracy in the Middle East, and they are doing it, why? Because they are Jewish people. This is wrong. This is very wrong.

The BDS Act we have here prohibits State and local governments from doing that. Any person who wants to do that has the First Amendment right to do that.

In any event, we think this is a good measure that prohibits State and local governments from spending taxpayers' money in a way that many taxpayers don't want it spent.

Mr. RISCH. Mr. President, I call up amendment No. 97.