National Security and Foreign Policy

Chris Van Hollen believes that America must continue to play its unique leadership role around the world and promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law. He believes that we can protect and promote our vital interests through a combination of a strong defense, smart diplomacy, and strategic international development programs.

As a member of a Foreign Service family, Chris learned early that the United States can promote its interests not only through the power of our military, but also by the power of our example. One day as a teenager in the island country of Sri Lanka, he visited a remote village. Entering a small hut, he saw a portrait of President Kennedy hanging on the wall. The portrait was there because the Peace Corps – established by Kennedy in 1961 – had helped install a sanitation system in the village to prevent the spread of disease. It was a powerful example of how the United State could win the hearts and minds of people through good works.

Chris believes that the U.S. always retains the right to use force to defend our vital national security interests, but that the U.S. should only go to war after we have exhausted all other options. Decisions of war and peace are the most solemn decisions members of Congress can make. As a Senator, Chris will always take that responsibility seriously and only ask the men and women of our Armed Forces to put themselves in harm’s way when absolutely necessary.

Chris was an outspoken critic of the Iraq War from the start and has been a leading voice against the re-introduction of U.S. ground combat forces there. Chris believes that we must work with and support our allies in the region to defeat ISIL and he supports President Obama’s policy of supplying the Iraqi and Kurdish forces with the training and weapons needed to stop and push back the advance of ISIL. However, he believes it would be counterproductive to put U.S. ground combat forces into that fight. He supports ending the 2002 Iraq War Resolution authority and the current version of the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force, which provides a blank check for the Executive to put U.S. ground combat forces into Iraq, Syria and other areas.

Chris also believes that the Iran Agreement is the best path toward achieving our goal of ensuring the Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon and that it advances the national security interests of the U.S. and our allies, including our partner Israel. While many spent time in the debate making political attacks, Chris’s statement on the agreement has been described as “stand[ing] out for its thoughtfulness and eloquence.”  In the 1980s, Chris served as a staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee where, among other things, he worked on various arms control agreements between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. He believes that we can strengthen our national security through smart, verifiable agreements to limit the military capacity of our adversaries.

Chris believes we must be steadfast in our support for allies and friends around the world and be ever vigilant about the risks and dangers of terrorism and nuclear proliferation. He believes we must also remain absolutely committed to ensuring the security of our ally Israel and fight anti-Semitism wherever it raises its ugly head. Chris also believes that the U.S. should exercise its leadership to facilitate negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians for a two state solution that allows two peoples to live in security and with dignity.

Chris played an important role in President Obama’s successful efforts to open a new chapter in relations between the U.S. and the people of Cuba. He worked tirelessly to free our fellow Marylander Alan Gross from Cuban prison, and was honored to join Alan’s wife Judy on the trip to Cuba to bring Alan home.

As the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Chris has presented budgets that provide the resources necessary to support a military that is second to none. He has also been a critic of pork barrel defense spending on certain unnecessary weapon systems that do nothing to advance our security, but divert resources from military readiness and support for our troops. Chris agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, who has said that we must reform the defense budget to make sure that every dollar is effectively invested to support readiness and 21st Century needs. Chris has been leading the charge to end the use of the so-called Overseas Contingency Operations as a slush fund for non-war activities at the Department of Defense.

Chris has been committed to ensuring our troops get the support they need, not only on the battlefield but also when they return home. He has advocated for all the resources necessary to care for our wounded warriors, and provide our veterans with all the support our nation should provide. He has supported reforms at the Veterans Health Administration, worked to get more housing vouchers for homeless veterans, supported efforts to launch veteran-owned businesses, and was a leading supporter of the GI bill to provide educational benefits to our Iraq and Afghan War veterans and certain members of their families. He was also the lead sponsor of the Military Officers Association Federal Charter Act, which was signed into law and granted a federal charter to the Military Officers Association of America.

Chris believes that the U.S. always retains the right and has the responsibility to act alone to pursue and defend our vital national security interests. At the same time, he believes that many of our goals can best be achieved through multilateral efforts, and by working with our allies and friends. He also believes the U.S. must meet its commitments to the United Nations and its efforts to support peacekeeping forces in conflict areas around the world.

Chris advocates for U.S. leadership in providing international food and humanitarian relief, and doing our part to address the growing refugee crisis. American efforts helped end the spread of the deadly Ebola virus and we must continue to help find vaccines, cures and treatments for deadly diseases around the world. America must also be a strong and steady voice for universal human rights, the rights of women, and the rights of oppressed religious minorities and other minority communities around the globe.
As we promote human rights and democracy around the world, Chris believes we must do more to live up to our ideals here at home. We must do more to meet the full promise of America — the promise of equal rights, equal justice, and equal opportunity. We have traveled a good distance down that road, but we have a long journey still ahead to build an ever more perfect union right here at home.