Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg, former naval intelligence officer, announces his candidacy.

On the Campaign Trail:

Pete Buttigieg (say “Buddha-jidge”) , the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and rising star of the Democratic field, is a former naval intelligence officer. Unlike the other military veterans in the race–Tulsi Gabbard and Seth Moulton–Buttigieg has not made national security or foreign policy the centerpiece of his campaign.

When talking to PBS News Hour, Buttigieg sounded conventional themes of the Washington foreign policy establishment.

Like other 2020 Democratic candidates, he has criticized Trump for conducting foreign policy by tweet. Buttigieg supports pulling troops out of Afghanistan, but has criticized Trump’s plans to withdraw from Syria. He has also said Iran poses the greatest threat to Israel in the Middle East.

These are the conventional positions of the national security policymaking elite, known informally as ‘The Blob.”

The Blob is a term coined by President Obama’s former adviser Ben Rhodes to describe the Washington foreign policy elite that has a relatively narrow range of views on what the United States should do in the world.

While some candidates (Sanders, Warren, and Gabbard) have made clear they would break with the Blob, Buttitieg seems to lean the other way: toward the foreign policy consensus as executed by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama.

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On China and Human Rights:

The Chinese Communist Party’s repressive treatment of the Uighurs and other minorities, and growing pressure on Hong Kong, are symptomatic of a broader, and intensifying, “systems” competition. Beijing seems committed to consolidating and legitimizing authoritarian capitalism as an alternative to the democratic capitalism embraced by the United States and its closest allies and partners. 
Where necessary and feasible, we should seek cooperation with Beijing, such as in addressing climate disruption, maintaining strategic stability, combatting terrorism, and managing conflict through international peacekeeping. But the United States must defend our fundamental values, core interests, and critical alliances, and accept that this will often entail friction with China.
For too long we have underestimated China’s ambitions, while overestimating our ability to shape them. We must instead focus on repairing our democracy and reinvesting in our economic and technological competitiveness; inoculating open societies from corrupt, coercive, or covert political interference; strengthening, rather than straining, our alliances in order to put collective pressure on China for unfair economic practices, human rights abuses, and intimidation of countries that stand up for their sovereignty; realigning defense and other national security investments to reflect China’s military modernization and full-spectrum statecraft; and reducing vulnerabilities from economic interdependence by disentangling the most sensitive sectors of our economies–in an orderly, not chaotic, fashion–and ensuring that American and allied resources and technologies do not underpin authoritarian oppression and surveillance.

Council on Foreign Relations interview

On the War Powers Act: ‘Frighteningly Vague’

One issue where Buttigieg has staked out new ground is the War Powers Act. Ignored by Presidents Bush and Obama, the law requires the president to get congressional authorization for military actions lasting more than 90 days.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Buttigieg was asked “Should the 2020 Democrats all pledge not to go into war without congressional authorization?” He responded:

I think that’s appropriate. Probably the single biggest thing in foreign policy and security the next president has to do is clarify what the standard will be for the commitment of U.S. troops. It’s frighteningly vague right now.

This would be a significant break with Clinton-Bush-Obama-Trump foreign policy. None of the last four presidents have respected the War Powers Act, instead assuming virtually unlimited executive power to go to war. The result has been endless war in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and now Somalia

On Russian Aggression in Ukraine:

‘Russian aggression against Ukraine is an attack on the agreed principles and rules of European and global order that protect global citizens beyond Ukraine, including Americans.  Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is protected by the UN Charter and European security agreements, which the Russian Federation has signed and is obligated to respect.  The OSCE mission and Minsk agreement both obligate Russia to resolve the conflict peacefully with Ukraine. We must keep tough, targeted, and effective economic and financial sanctions on Russia as long as it continues to assault Ukrainian territory and citizens, and continues to illegally occupy Ukrainian territory in the Donbas and Crimea.
But countering Russian aggression  also means supporting Ukraine’s independence and ability to make and implement sovereign foreign policy decisions by supporting Ukraine’s political, economic, and defense capabilities. Although Ukraine is not a formal treaty ally, the U.S. should be willing to help Ukraine develop a modern and capable defense force to defend its citizens, including advice, education, training, and willingness to consider commercial sales of weapons appropriate to the situation.   While the US must not exacerbate instability or conflict, we should not shy from responsible defense assistance to a democracy in the heart of Europe that is under assault because its citizens have chosen a democratic European path.’

Council on Foreign Relations interview

On Venezuela:

Maduro is responsible for the humanitarian crisis that has seen more than four million Venezuelans flee their country. Endemic corruption, pervasive criminality among top officials, and systematic human rights abuses all reinforce the fact that the Maduro regime has lost the legitimacy to govern, and I stand behind Juan Guaidó as the rightful interim president. Our end state in Venezuela is a peaceful transfer of power to an interim constitutional government followed by free and fair elections. Because the refugee situation and Venezuela’s imploding economy are impacting the entire hemisphere, the U.S. government should respond in concert with our regional allies, who are shouldering the heavy burden of a large Venezuelan diaspora.  Together, we also need to address the Russian, Chinese and Cuban interference now complicating an effective transition.
In this vein, I support recent efforts to negotiate a settlement between the regime and Guaidó; such talks can be the best route to a managed transition.  I would also continue to apply targeted sanctions against regime officials — but broad economic sanctions, such as those pursued by the Trump administration, run the risk of hurting innocent Venezuelans already face crippling food and medicine shortages and enabling the Maduro regime to promote the false narrative that the U.S. is responsible for the country’s misery. I also would support extending Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans currently residing in the United States until the crisis is resolved.

Council on Foreign Relations interview

On U.S. Foreign Policy:

On Israel: What U.S. Could Learn

‘Yes, I do support a two-state solution. The US alliance with Israel and support for Israel’s security have long been fundamental tenets of US national security policy, and they will remain so if I am elected President. But this is not a zero-sum game. The security of Israel and the aspirations of the Palestinian people are fundamentally interlinked. To visit the West Bank and Gaza is to understand the fundamental need for a two-state solution which addresses the economic, security and moral rights of both Israelis and of the Palestinians who live there.
I have clearly and strongly stated my support for the security of Israel, and I have also said that I disagree with policies being carried out by the current Israeli administration. This includes overreach in the West Bank and Gaza and short-sighted focus on military responses. The humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza has gone on far too long and provides a ripe environment for the very extremist violence that threatens Israel.
The United States needs to put its arm around the shoulder of its ally, Israel, and help it to develop policies that will work towards the economic and security benefit of both Israel and the Palestinians. Both Israeli and Palestinian citizens should be able to enjoy the freedom to go about their daily lives without fear of rocket attacks or other violence, and to work to achieve economic well-being for their families. A two-state solution that achieves legitimate Palestinian aspirations and meets Israel’s security needs remains the only viable way forward.’

Council on Foreign Relations interview

Mondoweiss says that Buttigieg’s visit to Israel in May 2018 demonstrates that he is more pro-Israel than other Democratic candidates.

Last May, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg went to Israel with the American Jewish Committee and two weeks later discussed his trip with that organization. At the time Israel was killing Palestinian protesters at the Gaza fence– 60 on one day within days of Buttigieg’s visit, getting global attention — yet Buttigieg repeatedly praised Israel’s security arrangements as “moving” and “clear-eyed”, said the U.S. could learn something from them, and blamed Palestinians and Hamas for the “misery” in Gaza.

On North Korea:

We have to accept that denuclearization will not happen overnight and will require a sustained, step-by-step approach spanning a significant number of years. It is unrealistic to think that the North Koreans will get rid of their entire nuclear weapons stockpile at the outset. I believe the most realistic way to get there is a framework for complete, verifiable denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula that is comprehensive in scope, with steps on both fronts implemented step-by-step and in tandem. 
I would support an initial freeze agreement that would have North Korea cease production of fissile material and end nuclear and missile testing, all verified by international inspectors, in exchange for targeted sanctions relief, which could be reversed if the North Koreans did not uphold their end of the bargain. After this initial deal, we would need to proceed toward dismantling facilities and then the weapons themselves.  This could be accompanied with corresponding measures on sanctions relief, as well as substantive progress on building a lasting peace regime and normalizing relations. It has to be a two-way street. The only way to achieve complete denuclearization is to recognize that we have to address the core issues of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula in tandem, and that will require concrete steps on both sides. 

Council on Foreign Relations interview

Biggest Threats: Cyber and Climate

“And by the way, I also think it’s a mistake to believe that security in general in the 21st century is as simple as military and border security matters. At a moment like this, when 21st century threats, from cyber-security to climate security are demanding action, many especially the majority party in the Senate, don’t seem to show any interest in tackling that at all.”

From PBS News Hour

On Afghanistan: He’s Been There.

How would he get along with the secret intelligence agencies? President Buttigieg would probably get along with The Blob of foreign policymaker who have served Presidents Bush and Obama

Research: Daniel Ortiz

Return to Insider’s Guide to the 2020 Democrats on War and Peace

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