If former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper becomes president, he says he will protect the nation by rebuilding international partnerships fractured by President Trump.
Hickenlooper rolled out his national security policy in what his campaign billed as a major speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on Monday as a part of the the independent think tank's America in 2020 series. His 25-minute speech was followed by a Q&A with Brian Hanson, the council's vice president of studies.
The leader with a nice-guy personality said he would lead as "an activist, not a pacifist."
He went on to contrast himself with the current president, who has "shriveled" the nation's security with his sketchy alliances and bombastic approach that has created a "crisis of division" at home and abroad.
"I will rely heavily on our most experienced intelligence, military and diplomatic advisers," Hickenlooper said. "I will expand trade, not restrict it. I will support and speak out for democracy abroad rather than pretend we have no stake in its global success."
Then he pivoted to members of his own party.
"Some Democrats are recoiling from past American foreign policy mistakes by looking to withdraw from our global leadership role. I refuse to join their retreat. I will modernize our military, not slash it.”
Foreign policy is perceived as a soft spot in the former Colorado governor's resume. Hickenlooper didn't enter politics, after all, until he was in his 50s, when he was elected mayor of Denver in 2003.
The second plank of his plan is to strengthen cybersecurity, including naming national director to take on the task.
"Trump obsesses about border walls; our cyber firewalls are far more important," Hickenlooper said.
Hickenlooper said he would favor open and fair trade to build the nation's economic security, and he would build up military and intelligence capabilities while fostering human rights.
ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday pressed Hickenlooper to elaborate on some of the points in his foreign policy speech during
an interview on ABC News' "This Week."
Citing portions of the speech provided in advance to ABC News, Stephanopoulos wanted to know which Democrats Hickenlooper was calling out when he charged some member of his own party are "recoiling from past American foreign mistakes by looking to withdraw from our global leadership role."
The ever-conciliatory Hickenlooper refused to say.
"Well, I don’t want to name names, but they’re — but they have withdrawn from, you know, they would have the United States withdraw from global engagement, and that makes us less safe," Hickenlooper said.
Undeterred, Stephanopoulos reframed the question, asking if Hickenlooper was calling out any of the 22 other Democrats running for president.
Hickenlooper responded: "Almost all the other Democrats — not all, but many of the other Democrats feel that we should back away from fair and open trade. And I believe that, you know, only through, you know, constant engagement and building up that trade are we going to get to full security."
The full transcript of his prepared remarks, provided by the campaign, follows:
Thank you, Ambassador Daalder. It is an honor to speak at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which is such an important national forum and voice for America’s global leadership.
I am here today to lay out a vision for America’s national security, as should anyone who is seeking the presidency.
No duty of that office is more important than serving as Commander in Chief of America’s armed forces and protecting the safety of our country and our citizens.
Our country enjoys a degree of security today. We have the world’s largest economy, protected by the world’s strongest military.
The Cold War is over. The wars we joined after 9/11 are winding down.
Yet this is no hour for complacency. It is a moment of gathering clouds and deepening dangers, both old and new.
The same kind of violent extremism that brought down the Twin Towers and attacked the Pentagon continues to target us and our allies and friends.
A nuclear-armed North Korea threatens its region and beyond.
China represents a generational challenge for American national security; it is a formidable economic and military competitor – militarizing disputed islands, and waging predatory trade practices – but it is also a country we must engage across complex, diverse issues.
The Russian Federation militarily invaded its neighbors; it actively works against our interests, such as propping up Mr. Assad in Syria and Mr. Maduro in Venezuela. As the Mueller Report confirms, Russia launched a massive and continuing attack on our own democratic elections.
From Moscow to Beijing, from Ankara to Caracas and beyond, authoritarian strongmen now threaten not only the rights of their own people, but also the foundations of international peace, with aid and comfort from those who should be defending liberty.
Their way of ruling is diametrically at odds with our ideals of democracy and inalienable rights.
Their view accepts that tyrants may invade the elections or the lands of other sovereign states.
They seek to weaponize the dark forces now threatening the civilized world: racism; xenophobia; misogyny; religious repression; corruption.
Their outlook celebrates the hard fist, not the human face.
While no invading army is storming America’s shores today, this authoritarian mentality has already breached our defenses. Indeed, it has occupied the White House.
We have a president who is not just ignoring many of the threats to our national security; he is aiding and abetting them.
Trump fawned over Kim Jong Un, a communist leader who murders his own people and threatens us and our allies with nuclear destruction.
Trump treated Vladimir Putin as his puppet-master rather than his adversary, welcoming his attacks on our elections, and resisting the sanctions Congress imposed to respond to Putin’s atrocities.
Most dangerous of all, Trump willfully abandoned America's global leadership for freedom and security -- a role that has served us for over half a century -- and replaced it with a reckless impulsiveness that makes us less secure.
He derided our trans-Atlantic allies and threatened to pull out of NATO.
He denied the urgent danger of climate change and abandoned America’s participation in the Paris Climate Accords.
He ignored his military advisers by saying our troops would pull out of the fight against ISIS in Syria, surrendering portions of the Mideast to Russian dominance.
He withdrew from trade negotiations that could have benefited our economy and workers.
I am running for president to end the crisis of division Trump has deepened – dividing us against each other here at home, and dividing us from our friends and allies around the world.
Trump’s recklessness has fractured the world-wide support we need in order to tackle global challenges: climate change; terrorism; nuclear proliferation; cyber-attacks; pandemics; human trafficking.
These are truly global issues which cannot be addressed in isolation. They will require constant engagement.
The Trump doctrine gives us shriveled security. His mantra of “America First” means “America alone.” And an isolated America is a weaker America.
We cannot hope to go back to the way the world was before Trump; too much has changed.
But as president, I will take our security in a very different direction.
I spent my career bringing people together rather than dividing them.
I will restore the traditions of global leadership and bipartisan consensus on core national security imperatives that allowed us to win two world wars, prevail in the Cold War, and make historic contributions to living conditions worldwide.
My approach will also differ from some in my own party.
Some Democrats are recoiling from past American foreign policy mistakes by looking to withdraw from our global leadership role.
I refuse to join their retreat.
I will modernize our military, not slash it.
I will be an activist, not a pacifist.
I will rely heavily on our most experienced intelligence, military, and diplomatic advisers.
I will work to expand trade, not restrict it.
I will support and speak out for democracy abroad, rather than pretend we have no stake in its global success.
As president, I’ll use constant engagement to pursue a strategy of “full security.”
That means marshalling all our security and diplomatic resources to make our people safe and prosperous.
That strategy has five elements.
First, full security requires that we have strong alliances and partnerships abroad, and that we lead on the world stage.
Contrary to what Mr. Trump implies, our alliances are not charity toward other countries.
They are something we do for our own security.
They are early warning systems – force multipliers – cost savers.
By reviving our leadership, we are not only making our country safer, but we’re making our country more prosperous.
Nothing demonstrates that more than NATO, history’s most successful military alliance.
After our NATO allies incurred a third of all the casualties in Afghanistan, it is shameful that Mr. Trump threatened our commitment to NATO, and repeatedly left our allies in the lurch, such as with his declaration of unilateral withdrawal from Syria.
His abandonment of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty also leaves Europe at risk, with no successor plan to control these nuclear weapons.
I will make clear the US stands resolutely by our decades-old commitment to treat an attack against any of our NATO allies as an attack against all of us.
I will revive arms control discussions with both Russia and China, to increase our security and that of our allies, and to limit the looming costs of modernization of our nuclear forces.
As a start, I call on Mr. Trump to extend the New START agreement with Russia, which limits strategic nuclear weapons, so it does not lapse in February 2021.
And I will seek new arrangements with Russia and with China, to address short- and medium-range weapons, all of which fall outside the parameters of New START.
I will also stand by Israel as our strongest ally in the Middle East and ensure it is safe from aggression by Iran and other neighbors.
We do not have to agree with every action of every Israeli government to know the Israeli people deserve real security, and that we should reject boycotts, divestment, or sanctions on Israel.
I have supported a two-state solution, and I will use America’s leadership to push for a resumption of negotiations for a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
I would be willing to consider resuming US participation in the Iran nuclear agreement, but only after working with our allies to include tougher conditions against Iran’s support for regional terror groups, its ballistic missile program, and its long-term ability to pursue a nuclear program.
I will work with our allies in East Asia to defuse tensions China has provoked over islands and navigation, and to ensure we have a full, coordinated strategy to stop North Korea’s ballistic nuclear program – not based on flattery, but on strong deterrence, verifiable agreements, and robust inspections.
I will work closely with the states of the Western Hemisphere, on challenges from stemming the drug trade, to ensuring a democratic Venezuela.
We will address immigration by working cooperatively with the source countries of immigrants, rather than cutting off their aid and turning them into scapegoats.
We will build partnerships to tackle the shared problems facing humankind.
As part of full security, America will again lead global efforts to combat disease, poverty, and human suffering.
I will rejoin the Paris Climate Accords on my first day in office; and then exceed their targets and summon this generation of Americans to an all-out fight against climate change.
The perils we face internationally from global warming will challenge us and the world far beyond the short-term threats we face.
Second, I will ensure our country is prepared to meet the world’s new and evolving threats.
We will continue the efforts we have made since 9/11 to ensure the strongest possible counter-terror protections, including close coordination with our allies.
As part of that, it would be a tragic and costly mistake to cut short our military presence in the Middle East, if it means the return of ISIS or other violent extremist groups.
I will wind down our involvement in these conflicts – deliberately, but not prematurely; always based on conditions, and only in close consultation with America’s military leadership and all the countries who have borne these difficult and deadly battles by our side.
I will particularly update our efforts to protect against cyber-attacks.
Trump obsesses about border walls; our cyber firewalls are far more important.
Our country needs to wake up to the fact that a low-grade, cyber-war is already raging today, often against the US, including commercial attacks as well as direct assaults on our government, military, and the critical infrastructure systems that protect our daily lives.
If you want to visualize this threat, imagine a major American city without power for a month -- with hospitals, water, communications, and traffic all inoperable. This is a real threat.
It is a new and difficult kind of war. It is hard, and sometimes impossible, to determine who is behind a specific attack. Even when we can, we have no procedures or protocols for an appropriate response. Any use of offensive cyber capabilities runs the risk of retaliation and escalation.
The 2016 election showed how Russia attacked our electoral system. China, North Korea, Iran, and other states have also attacked our institutions and companies.
It is no accident that the biggest authoritarian regimes are also the leading cyber-aggressors.
Dictators see cyber as a potent weapon against their own people and the rest of the world.
Yet even after all this, Mr. Trump’s aides have reportedly been blocked from even briefing him on such cyber-threats.
As a result, we remain shockingly underprepared to confront these new dangers.
This problem has concerned me for years. As I talked with leaders from around the world, I found that many countries, like Israel, were far ahead of us on cybersecurity.
That is why, as Governor, I allocated state funds to help open the National Cybersecurity Center in Colorado Springs.
As president, I will shift cybersecurity efforts into higher gear.
I will create a new position, Director of National Cybersecurity, to coordinate all our national cybersecurity priorities.
There will be no confusion in my administration about the importance I place on this threat.
The new Cybersecurity Director will bring our security and intelligence agencies together to lay out a 20 year plan, to coordinate how we will harness new and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence.
We will also sharpen our offensive cyber capabilities and develop policies on levels of response and when we should use them.
Our adversaries must know that there will be a price to be paid for their cyber behavior.
Through constant engagement, we will lead an international effort to create a legal framework and diplomatic protocols that can prevent cyber threats from escalating into war.
The time to deal with this threat is now – before some hostile actor makes our lights go out, or crashes the Pentagon’s computers.
Third, I will reconnect our national security to our economic security. Economic anxiety, both here and abroad, is like oxygen for ultra-nationalist leaders and their destructive ideas.
This month, I laid out my “Strategy for a Working America” – a plan to reward work, encourage entrepreneurs, reduce inequality, strengthen the middle class, and spur economic growth. It aims to rescue and reboot capitalism.
All of that is relevant to our national security; but one part – a commitment to open and fair trade – is particularly important.
Today politicians in both parties are pushing to restrict America’s trading opportunities. Mr. Trump launched tariff wars. Protectionists on the left seek to block new trade agreements.
This belligerence toward trade is self-destructive. It undermines our diplomatic leverage.
At a time when 95% of the world’s consumers live outside our borders, we cannot have economic growth, economic justice, or full security without expanding trade.
We need open and fair trade, so our people can benefit from trade rather than hide from it.
I will require new trade agreements to enforce labor and safety rules; environmental standards and climate change goals; protection of US intellectual property rights; and equitable access for our investors.
I’ll also create a new system of investment security accounts, so workers can afford new skills or relocation.
Fourth, I will make sure America’s diplomatic, military, and intelligence capabilities remain the strongest and most respected in the world.
Diplomacy is crucial. Decades of American leadership and diplomacy have created a safer and more prosperous world – whether in post-war Europe, Northern Ireland, the Balkans or the Middle East. Multilateral institutions like the UN help keep the peace.
But full security begins with having the best-equipped, best-trained, best-respected military and intelligence forces in the world. It is our shield. It is the muscle behind our diplomacy.
That is why, as President, I will ensure we maintain a quantitative and qualitative military and intelligence edge over every adversary, and a willingness to use force when it is needed.
We will need to expand investments in next-generation systems that are crucial for our security - things like responding to cyber-attacks and hyper-sonic missiles, and military applications of artificial intelligence and quantum computing.
That is not to say our spending on these functions must be open-ended. We can cut a great deal of waste from our defense budget, and we will.
In a military system that encompasses over 2 million people working at over 4,000 locations worldwide, it is too easy to budget and plan incrementally.
I have no desire to slash our military; but I do have a determination to make sure we are building exactly the right military for the threats we face today and those we will face a generation from now.
I will end Trump’s exclusion and denigration of professional military and intelligence advice from presidential decision making.
I will never use the military for political stunts like the election-year deployment to our southern border; in fact, I refused to deploy Colorado’s National Guard there.
And I will never use our military for the kind of Soviet-style military parade Trump requested. The United States of America does not need to parade its tanks and missiles to show our strength.
These aren’t abstract notions to me. My great-grandfather was Andrew Hickenlooper – who at age 28 became one of the youngest generals in US history.
As governor, I served a state that is home to six US military bases, including NORAD.
I oversaw in-state deployments of the National Guard, and met with service members both before and after deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our security begins with those who wear our uniform and are willing to sacrifice for our defense.
Fifth, we will once again make the United States the world’s beacon for democracy and human dignity.
As president, I will push back on authoritarian rulers, stand up for human rights, and support those pursuing democratic reforms.
I will expand programs to support democratic reforms abroad.
As president, the people I celebrate in the Oval Office will be the activists and journalists speaking out against abuse, not the authoritarian leaders who are abusing them.
Some on the left and right today shy away from supporting democracy and human rights abroad. They believe other major powers should have spheres of influence – nearby areas where they can impose their will, deny basic rights, and suppress the desire for self-rule.
I could not disagree more. It’s common sense that our security and prosperity are shaped by the kinds of governments that surround us.
Does anyone doubt we would be less secure if our northern neighbor was a dictatorship like North Korea, rather than Canada, a trusted democracy?
Does anyone doubt we would be safer and better off in a world of 200 democracies than in a world with just one?
That does not mean we can or should try to impose democracy by force. The Iraq war proved that, as it cost us thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.
But we should support those abroad who are trying to resist authoritarianism and create tolerant democracies. For today the world is testing not only our security but our character.
Dangerous demagogues preach that democracy is fake news, that social tolerance is for wimps, and that might makes right. If we fail to answer them, we will have lost the next war before the first shot is fired.
Seventy years ago, after World War II, we had a president who had come out of state and local politics in middle-America, and stepped into the presidency at a moment when it was not clear whether America would lead or withdraw in the face of new authoritarian movements abroad.
But withdrawal was not in Harry Truman’s blood.
He and his gifted team declared America would stand up for those pursuing democracy.
They invested massively – financially and politically – to create the forces and institutions that could prevent America and other countries from being drawn back into yet another world war.
They launched the Marshall Plan. They endorsed the United Nations. On a bipartisan basis, they helped give birth to NATO.
When they brought the NATO Treaty to the Senate, Harry Truman said these words: “Together, our joint strength is of tremendous significance to the future of free men in every part of the world. For differences in language and in economic and political systems are no real bar to the effective association of nations devoted to the great principles of human freedom and justice.”
I am determined to revive American leadership and usher in that kind of security and constant engagement.
We will marshall all our powers to protect our people and our interests abroad.
Diplomacy. Alliances. Military. Intelligence. Cyber. Climate. Trade. Democracy. Human rights. All of it: that is what full security means.
And that is the national security policy I will bring to the Oval Office.