We live in a constantly changing, increasingly interconnected world. It is essential that America remain engaged in the world to protect our national security and to support a stable international system based on the values of human rights and democracy. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for "Smart Power" - the use of defense, diplomacy, development, and other tools to advance U.S. interests in the world. As a Senator, I will pursue a foreign policy that is smart, tough, and pragmatic, and that uses every tool available. We owe nothing less to our citizens and to those we would put in harm's way to protect us.
Our men and women in uniform do an incredible job. They are tough, smart, and resourceful, and they fight with courage and honor. Our military families show the same courage. All three of my brothers served in the military and my oldest brother was career military, with 288 combat missions in Vietnam, so I have a first-hand idea of how much they and their families contribute to our country.
As a U.S. Senator, I will continue to do all I can to support servicemembers, their families, and veterans. I will work hard to help ease the return to civilian life by supporting a strong GI Bill, ensuring that veterans have top-notch health care, and taking action to create jobs. Our servicemembers and military families contribute so much to our country - we owe them the best.
The sacred trust we have with our military families is also why it is so important for our political leaders to make good decisions when it comes to our foreign policy and national security.
For more than a decade, our country has been engaged in wars abroad - wars that stretched our military, our families, and our finances. We should always exhaust all other options before going to war, and we must never again put wars on a credit card for our grandchildren to pay for. If a war is unavoidable and in our national interest, then we should be willing to pay for it as we fight it. Either all of us go to war, or none of us go to war.
I believe it is time for our servicemembers to come home from Afghanistan. We need to get out as quickly as possible, consistent with the safety of our troops and with a transition to Afghan control. Ultimately, it is the Afghans who must take responsibility for their own future.
Around the world, the proliferation of nuclear weapons remains a critical challenge. Every additional finger on the nuclear button makes our world and our citizens less safe. Every new country with nuclear weapons creates the added risk of those weapons being lost or stolen. Every new nuclear power makes it more likely their neighbors will seek nuclear weapons as well.
In Asia, the recent leadership transition in North Korea and its failed missile launch in April 2012 are developments that require continued U.S. monitoring and attention, in addition to close cooperation with our allies and continued efforts with those in the region. If there is to be progress, North Korea must first take action to demonstrate good faith including suspending enrichment, halting missile tests, and allowing international inspectors into the country.
In the Middle East, the facts on the ground are changing rapidly. The United States and the European Union are imposing some of the toughest sanctions ever on Iran - including sanctions against Iran's central bank. In March 2012, a group of global powers, including the United States, agreed to resume talks with Iran on the nuclear issue. In April, they met for talks in Istanbul, and they met to continue talks in Baghdad in May.
I support the approach President Obama - joined by a bipartisan consensus in Congress - has taken in working to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. A nuclear Iran would be a threat to the United States, our allies, the region, and the world. I support strong economic sanctions in conjunction with other countries that have placed serious political pressure on Iran, as well as vigorous diplomacy to try to resolve the situation through negotiations. Like the President, I believe that careless talk of rushing to war is unhelpful, and, like the President, I believe the United States must take the necessary steps to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
As a country, we have been fortunate to have avoided any devastating attacks since 9/11. It's a testament to the hard work of our intelligence, law enforcement, homeland security, and military personnel. As recently as May, these professionals disrupted an Al Qaeda plot to target civilian aircraft using an explosive designed in Yemen.
It has now been more than one year since the death of Osama bin Laden, and the President's assertive operations have eliminated many of Al Qaeda's senior leadership and weakened its affiliates. But the threat of terrorism remains, and we must remain vigilant. We must continue our political, military, economic, and diplomatic efforts against Al Qaeda and its affiliates, and we need to continue to support the efforts of our intelligence, law enforcement, homeland security, and military professionals.
Since its founding more than 60 years ago, Israel and the United States have been steadfast, trusted, and reliable allies. I unequivocally support the right of a Jewish, democratic state of Israel to exist, and to be safe and secure. The U.S.-Israel relationship is rooted in shared values and common interests, based on a commitment to liberty, pluralism, and the rule of law. These values transcend time, and they are the basis of our unbreakable bond.
To me, it is a moral imperative to support and defend Israel, and I am committed to ensuring its long-term security by maintaining its qualitative military edge. Israel must be able to defend itself from the serious threats it faces from terrorist organizations to hostile states, including Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and others.
I am also a strong proponent of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which I believe to be in the interest of Israel and the United States, with a Jewish, democratic state of Israel and a state for the Palestinian people. The U.S. can and should play an active role in promoting a diplomatic resolution to the conflict that is agreed to by the parties, but I do not believe that a lasting peace can be imposed from the outside or that either party should take unilateral steps - such as the Palestinians' application for UN membership - that move the parties further away from negotiations.
I am also deeply proud that Israel and Massachusetts are natural economic allies. Like Massachusetts, Israel has a real commitment and advantage in high-tech and innovative industries. There are approximately 100 companies in Massachusetts with Israeli founders or based on Israeli technologies - creating $2.4 billion in value and thousands of jobs for our economy.
As a United States Senator, I will work to ensure Israel's security and success, and I will support active American leadership to help bring peace and security to Israel and the region.
Our economic power at home is linked to our strength around the world. A strong economy at home enables us to have the best-trained and most advanced military in the world - and the standing in the world such that we don't always need to use it. A strong economy at home enables us to export goods to foreign customers. A strong economy at home gives us influence over events occurring all around the world. And a strong economy at home enables us to spread the values of democracy and human rights. We are one of the most powerful countries in the history of the world precisely because we are one of the strongest economies in the history of the world.
As a Senator, I will never forget the link between our economic power and our global power, and I will fight to make sure we build a strong economy, so we can remain a powerful force for good around the world.