The deployment of United States ground troops in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East is wrong, Sen. Chris Murphy said in a talk Friday afternoon.
Attended by roughly 150 students and faculty and sponsored by the Yale Political Union, Murphy instead called for a “winning strategy” that puts more weight on non-military intervention and homeland security. Murphy specifically referenced the threat that the Islamic State poses to regional stability in the Middle East and U.S. national security, and called the “evil” group to be completely eliminated. But while Murphy said the U.S. must take a leadership position in the war against IS, he warned against the deployment of U.S. ground troops.
Murphy first grieved the death of Kayla Mueller, an American journalist who was killed while an IS hostage, adding that he was “as angry as every American” when he saw videos of IS brutally beheading hostages.
“But I kept reminding myself: Fury is not a strategy, and revenge is not security,” he said.
A better foreign policy strategy, Murphy said, would be to employ a tactic that turns local residents into American allies, not enemies. In this sense, non-military solutions are often more effective than military ones, Murphy said. For example, building infrastructure that the region badly needs and providing food aid are proven and effective methods to win the loyalty of locals, he added. Unfortunately, these essential methods are often undervalued and poorly supported, Murphy said.
Fund shortages at the World Food Programme caused the United Nations to suspend aid to 1.7 million Syrian refugees two months ago, he said.
“Our priorities are badly misplaced,” Murphy said. “If we left the refugees hungry, we are turning them to IS for help.”
While Murphy suggested soft power interventions in the Middle East, he also emphasized the importance of robust homeland security. He said he was disappointed that the House failed to pass a three-week extension of funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Later that day, the House passed a one-week extension to keep the negotiations open. The initial failure of the House to extend funding showed how the proponents of aggressive military actions overseas lacked commitment to “hardening the nation,” Murphy said.
Still, Murphy was quick to note that military interventions should not be completely ruled out from any foreign policy strategy. Instead, he said it is important that legislators, in granting the president the power of waging war, exercise discretion in utilizing U.S. ground forces. In the fight against IS, Murphy said the U.S. strategy should be to befriend locals, and non-military methods are effective in doing exactly this.
Besides Murphy, five other members of the YPU debated from both sides of the resolution.
From the Party of the Right, Tyler Carlisle ’15 said that deploying ground troops is the most effective method of peacemaking that we have seen.
“Ground troops make more terrorists?” Carlisle asked. “Then this logic applies to all military interventions.”
In response, Ong Kar Jin ’17 from the Liberal Party said that by heavily focusing on military actions, the U.S. is losing a war of ideology and soft power. He said the professionalism of the films made by IS is just an example of the terrorist group’s proficiency in winning over hearts and minds.
Before becoming a senator, Murphy represented Connecticut’s 5th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2007 to 2013.