By LINDSAY CAREY
Southington Chamber of Commerce and BearingStar Insurance sponsored the Celebrity Breakfast with U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy on Monday, March 9 at the Manor Inn in Milldale.
Murphy, who got his start in politics serving on the Planning and Zoning Committee in Southington, spoke about his connection to Southington, why foreign policy should be important to Connecticut residents and the current issues in foreign policy.
Chamber of Commerce President Art Secondo said that he asked Sen. Murphy to speak on foreign policy because of all the news surrounding it lately.
“The way that the world is revolving now with ISIS and Iraq and Israel and Iran, I thought it would be good to have someone like Mr. Murphy who’s really involved,” said Secondo. “He’s gone from Planning and Zoning in Southington, talking to John Weichsel, to now talking to the President of the United States of America.”
Murphy said that Southington was the first town to give him his start in public service. He said that it’s where he first learned about politics.
“When I was first entering public service, I had role models here in Southington that taught me how to do it right, that taught me what the real meaning of public service is,” said Sen. Murphy. “That’s people like Art. That’s people like Dave Zoni, people like Bill DePaolo who really were models for me when I began.”
Sen. Murphy explained how foreign policy has also been a topic of interest and attention for former Connecticut Senators Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman.
“It matters to Connecticut, in part, because we still have a bigger portion of our economy tied to defense manufacturing than almost any other state,” said Murphy. “We make the jet engines, the helicopters, and the submarines that protect our nation abroad.”
In addition to defense manufacturing providing jobs to Connecticut residents, Murphy emphasized how many people in Connecticut had friends who died in the twin towers on 9/11 and have also had a lot of Connecticut residents fight and die at war in the Middle East.
Murphy serves on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee and is the top ranking democrat on the Middle East Subcommitee. Sen. Murphy discussed how the country should go about handling the expansion of ISIS.
The Senator explained that the goal of ISIS is to create an uprising, referred to as caliphates, inside the Middle East and to use that power to attack the United States.
“Should they be able to establish control of a large swath of territory inside Syria and Iraq without contest from the United States and the International community, it’s very likely they would set their sights on the homeland, which means we need to lead an international effort to take these guys out,” said Sen. Murphy.
Sen. Murphy noted that ISIS has already expanded into other regions. An uprising of a militant group in Boko Haram, Nigeria has been leading a mass genocide in the area for some time now. Just this week, Murphy said the group pledged their allegiance to the caliphates in the Middle East.
“There is a trend line by which other extremist groups around the world are trying to link and join forces with ISIS,” said Murphy.
The senator said that the Foreign Relations Committee recently met with foreign leaders Emir Qatar and the King of Jordan to figure out the best response to the expansion of ISIS.
Sen. Murphy said that both of the leaders said that they did not want the U.S. to handle this the same way the Iraq war was handled.
“They said, ‘We want U.S. leadership. We want U.S. funding. We want U.S. training. We’re going to need U.S. air support, but we do not want U.S. troops on the ground again,’” said Murphy. “I think what we’ve learned over the last ten years is that a brute force military attack doesn’t always get the job done, and sometimes it makes this country less safe rather than more safe.”
He explained how sending troops into these areas would only add more fuel for the fire and increase the recruiting numbers for the extremist groups.
“The attraction of ISIS is that jihadists around the world believe that their momentum and expansion is inevitable,” said Murphy. “So once you change that reality—that impression of ISIS as a group that’s on the march—then you reduce the number of foreign fighters who are attracted to join them.”
To this end, Sen. Murphy emphasized the importance for funding the Dept. of Homeland Security at this time.
“The one thing that shouldn’t be political or partisan in Washington is the funding screen for the Department of Homeland Security that’s in charge of protecting our borders, our ports, and our airports,” said the senator.
Other than ISIS, Murphy also spoke about the importance of negotiation with Iran in order to prevent them from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Murphy said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to Washington to speak about how to carry out this deal and also said that the consequences of not getting a deal with the Iranians could be dire.
“We have thousands of American troops inside Iraq, and the last time we had a massive presence of troops in Iraq, Iran was running operations against the U.S. Army and Marines and other forces inside Iraq that were killing hundreds upon hundreds of Americans,” said Sen. Murphy.
He said that the politicians in Washington need to find a way to get Iran to work with the U.S. towards a common goal, or the countries will find themselves working against them. Murphy said he believes that the only other option to this deal is a military strike, but that will only make matters worse.
“They will strike back in a variety of ways,” said Murphy. “Given the instability of that region today, we better be very careful before we open up a new war with Iran, a country by the way three times the size of Iraq. That’s why we should take these negotiations seriously.”
Lastly, Murphy discussed the problems in the Ukraine and his belief that the U.S. should lend military support to the country.
Murphy invited Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. John McCain to spend the day with him in Connecticut on March, 9 to discuss providing defensive weapons to the Ukrainian Army. Their schedule for McCain’s visit included visiting the Ukrainian National Home in Hartford.
“We have large Ukrainian American population right here in Connecticut,” said Murphy.
The Senator talked about the threat of Vladimir Putin to over the Ukraine.
“Make no mistake, what Putin is attempting to do today is to re-establish a new version of the soviet empire,” said Murphy. “He thinks the greatest tragedy over the last 100 years when it comes to Russia is the breakup of the Soviet Union… We’ve got to meet his aggression with strength.”
Sen. Murphy said that he feels that a policy of sanctions is not enough to protect the Ukraine from being completely infiltrated and that military support is going to be needed to “create a fairer fight.”
“They need to pay a much greater cost for their aggression inside the Ukraine than they are today,” said Murphy.