Lugar urges compromise in farewell speech to Senate
In his farewell speech to the US Senate, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) urged members of Congress to adopt a more unified approach, and that the future of the country depends on it.
"All parties should recognize the need for unity in the coming year. Events in Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, North Korea and other locations may test American national security in extreme ways," said the senator.
The senator's comments come as North Korea launched a long-range rocket Tuesday, against international pressure.
He also talked about his belief that the US is still vulnerable to a terrorist attack, and that there are "no silver bullets" protecting the country from weapons of mass destruction. Lugar called national security efforts a "painstaking process" that involves diplomatic, military and other efforts.
Lugar also called the current dialogue on national security "one of the least constructive I have ever witnessed."
Lugar lost the May primary to Richard Mourdock. Mourdock went on to lose the election to Joe Donnelly (D-IN).
"My hope is that senators will devote much more of their energies to governance. In a perfect world we would not only govern, we would execute a coherent strategy. That's a very high bar for any legislative branch to clear. But we must aspire to it in cooperation with the president because we are facing fundamental changes in the world that will deeply affect America's security and standard of living," Lugar said.
Lugar said the changes start with the rise of China and India as economic, political and military powers. He mentioned the Obama administration's "pivot" towards Asia, and described China both as an adversary and a "fellow traveler."
"The ongoing challenge will be for the United States to discern, sometimes issue by issue, whether China is an adversary or a partner, and this calibration will impact America's relations with the rest of Asia," he said.
Lugar said it will ultimately determine "prospects for war and peace in this world."
He also talked about food and energy shortages that could spark conflict and poverty around the world. Even if the United States finds ways to produce more energy at home, Lugar said, "We cannot isolate ourselves from energy driven shocks to the global economy. We have to cooperate with other nations in improving the global system of manufacturing and moving energy supplies."
The senator urged a "wider embrace" of agricultural technologies like genetically modified techniques to keep up with food demand, especially amid the uncertainty of climate change and how it will affect the global food supply. He also said the US should be open to the idea of exporting liquid natural gas to its closest allies if necessary.
Lugar praised the US for its younger, mobile population, saying, "We still can flourish in this global marketplace if we nurture the competitive genius of the American people that has allowed us time and time again to reinvent our economy," he said.
Congressional talks have often been halted by gridlock, and Lugar said that culture needs to change.
"We must address the failures of governance that have delayed resolutions to obvious problems. No rational strategy for our long-term growth and security should fail to restrain current entitlement spending, and no attempt to gain the maximum strategic advantage from our human resource potential should fail to enact comprehensive immigration reform that resolves the status of undocumented immigrants and encourages the most talented immigrants to contribute to America's future," he said.
Lugar urged the president and Congress to establish a better working relationship on issues like national security, saying, "This cooperation depends on congressional leaders who are willing to set aside partisan advantage and on administration officials who understand the benefits of having a supportive Congress is worth the effort it takes to secure it."
He also warned that before the "next 9/11" the president must be willing to bring in Republicans to discuss a "working partnership in foreign policy. Republicans must be willing to suspend reflexive opposition that serves no purpose but to limit their own role in strategic questions and render cooperation impossible."
Sen. Lugar has been a senator since 1976, the longest-serving senator in Indiana history. He is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and he's perhaps most well-known for his work towards dismantling weapons of mass destruction around the globe.