Nebraska’s U.S. Senate Candidates Discuss Foreign Policy and Use of Military

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October 28, 2014 - 6:30am

The winner of Nebraska’s U.S. Senate race will certainly be dealing with tough decisions about the role of our military. As part of our Campaign Connection 2014 coverage, Mike Tobias talks about this issue with Nebraska’s four Senate candidates.

From large ground forces, to missile and drone attacks, to covert missions, the last decade has seen U.S. military forces and resources used in many different parts of the world. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, Syria…the list of countries, and reasons for action is long. Undoubtedly, decisions on similar threats will challenge Nebraska’s next U.S. senator.

Independent U.S. Senate candidate Jim Jenkins (Photo courtesy Jenkins campaign)

Independent, nonpartisan candidate Jim Jenkins said there needs to be a “direct, explicit threat” to American’s economy or security before U.S. military resources are used in foreign countries.

“I am very concerned that we wade all too often into scenarios where we have no chance of winning,” said Jenkins, a businessman and rancher from Callaway. “We enter into a civil war or tribal warfare type or ethnic warfare type landscape.  I thought certainly going after the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan was appropriate. We needed to do something to go after people that are, terrorists groups that are threatening us.”

Jenkins said he would like to see the U.S. work harder at building coalitions before taking action; in the case of the fight against ISIS, for example, making sure that countries in the Middle East have “skin in the game.” He would also like to see Congress more involved in decisions about military action.

“I am not for tying the president’s hands on some immediate threat, but I think Congress absolutely should be voting on and stepping up to the plate, working with the president on a broader longer-term foreign policy,” Jenkins said. “How are we going to, when do we engage? What is an imminent threat to our economy?”

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ben Sasse (Photo courtesy Sasse campaign)

Republican Ben Sasse would also like to see more Congressional involvement in these decisions.

“I think that ultimately we have an obligation under the Constitution to see the Congress making decisions about declaration of war,” said Sasse, a college president from Fremont. “Let’s be clear. There will be many times in the future where executive branch unilateralism and foreign policy will be required, but the only time that should happen is when there’s an imminent national security threat that needs the executive branch to act and there isn’t time for legislative branch deliberation. The legislative branch needs to fulfill its responsibilities for all medium and long-term planning in this space, and right now, there are too many in Congress that don’t want to lead.”

Sasse said we have a global leadership responsibility, but that does not mean “we act in every circumstance.”

“What is necessary is for the U.S. to recognize the primacy of U.S. national security interests and where we would project force and potentially intervene around the world,” Sasse said. “The purpose is to protect Americans and American national security interests and obviously a long-term stable world is in our interest, where we’ve very cautious before we make alliances, but when we make alliances, we intend to fulfill our obligations.”

Independent U.S. Senate candidate Todd Watson (Photo courtesy Watson campaign)

Independent, nonpartisan candidate Todd Watson said the Constitution should guide military action decisions.

“Domestic tranquility has a small piece of it,” said Watson, a Lincoln businessman. “Is about peace at home? The second one is providing for the common defense. Again, my belief, we’ve been on too many offensive wars that really didn’t serve the national interest. We’ve lost that view of being self-focused on our country. We should lead and be involved diplomatically, but we’re occupying with our military too many places around the world.”

Watson said our military should not be used to protect U.S oil interests, or for peacekeeping and creating democracies, and that Congress should be involved in most of these decisions.

“If the attacks are on America, the president can (take) immediate action,” Watson said. “But in offensive action, yes, if we’re going to go take an offensive new initiative engagement in a foreign land, we need to come to Congress, but he still has the authority and should have the authority to respond to immediate threats to our people.”

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Dave Domina (Photo courtesy Domina campaign)

Democrat Dave Domina said he’s comfortable with provisions of the Constitution that allow military action without Congressional approval, as long as there is an objective that is “defined and achievable.”

“That objective has to be one that is supplemented by an understanding of what will follow it’s accomplishment,” said Domina, an Omaha attorney. “That usually means a military objective followed by a political objective that are complimentary and both are achievable. Once that is established then we have to be able to meaningfully assess what mass of equipment we need, what opportunity we have to deploy it in a way that surprises the adversary to maximize our advantages and minimizes the risk to us.”

Domina said there is a need to redefine what American interests justify use of military resources.

“I see it as no justification for us to deploy American troops to defend the assets of U.S. companies invested in a foreign country with the understanding of the political risks or potential risks of investing in a foreign country, particularly by a company that doesn’t pay income tax on what it earns in that foreign location,” Domina said.

In general, all four candidates support our action against ISIS. Examples of when the U.S. should not have been involved, militarily, in a foreign country? At the recent NET News debate in North Platte, Domina and Sasse both said Bosnia in the 1990s, while Jenkins and Watson both mentioned the most recent war in Iraq.


Watch the NET News U.S. Senate Debate, held Sept. 14 in North Platte. This debate included an extensive foreign affairs discussion.

NET News story: "Nebraska's U.S. Senate candidates discuss Federal budget issues"

Hear Nebraska's U.S. Senate candidates talk about more issues in videos on the Mike Tobias, NET Journalist Facebook page.

Federal Election Commission (campaign finance information)

Visit the NET News Campaign Connection 2014 web page for more election coverage.



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