|Political Career |
Elected to the Senate in 1998; not running for re-election
North Carolina State University, B.S., 1974; University of North Carolina, J.D., 1977
Foreign Policy Advisers
Exclusive advisers: Ronald Asmus, Derek Chollet; also consults with Sandy Berger, Kurt Campbell, Ashton Carter, Kenneth Pollack, Dennis Ross, Hugh Shelton
John Edwards was a cosponsor of the resolution that gave President George W. Bush the authority to use force in Iraq. He continues to defend his vote, but is highly critical of what he views as the Bush administration’s sole focus on pre-emptive military force rather than multilateral solutions to stop the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.
“This administration’s approach to protecting America from weapons of mass destruction [WMD] can be summed up simply,” Edwards charged Dec. 15 in a speech entitled “Prevention, Non Pre-emption.” “Wait until our enemies gather strength, and then use force to stop them.”
The first-term senator from North Carolina unveiled a number of policy initiatives that he would undertake, if elected president, to fight WMD proliferation. “Rather than run from internaitonal efforts to halt the spread of dangerous weapons, I will lead in modernizing and strengthening those efforts, beginning with one of the most important—the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)….Right now it is too easy for a country to cheat or use a legal civilian power program as the jumping off point for an illegal military one by withdrawing from the treaty on short notice and having weapons capabilities within months.”
Within six months of taking office, Edwards said he would convene a summit of leading nations to develop a multilateral global nuclear compact. Once established, he asserts, the compact would “close the loophole that allows civilian nuclear programs to go military.” The global effort would, in part, increase security of nuclear materials, give international experts the authority to inspect nuclear facilities without notice, and make clear that any country that joins the NPT and then opts out—or violates the rules of the compact—will be penalized.
Edwards said he will develop new tools to deal with proliferation threats such as North Korea and Iran. “I will work through the UN Security Council and other mechanisms to establish the principle in international law that countries that sponsor terrorism or willfully violate nonproliferation treaties like the NPT should be treated like the criminals they are.” He accused the Bush administration of not having a “coherent strategy” for North Korea and said that, as president, he would work with U.S. allies such as South Korea and Japan to develop a “serious plan for ending [North Korea’s] destabilizing weapons programs and exports—a plan that includes carrots and sticks.”
Edwards also wants to revive the oft-discussed idea of appointing a nonproliferation czar to consolidate the federal government’s nonproliferation efforts. “As president I will make sure that we have someone who wakes up every morning thinking about how to keep WMD out of the hands of terrorists and others who wish us harm.” He would also support “other measures that this administration has rejected, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and efforts to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention.”
The North Carolina senator proposes tripling the approximately $1 billion being spent annually on comprehensive threat reduction (CTR) programs to safeguard and destroy Russia’s Cold War WMD legacy. “Instead of living with this danger for the next three decades or more, I will eliminate it before another decade has passed by simply making it a priority.”
Edwards also wants to expand CTR programs beyond the former Soviet Union to places such as India and Pakistan. To help fund that effort, Edwards said he would cancel plans recently approved by Congress at the request of the Bush administration to research a new generation of nuclear weapons and reduce the more than $9 billion spent each year on missile defense.
“While we need to maintain deterrence and keep a strong defense, it doesn’t make sense to spend nine times as much on one program that might work some day than we spend on all the other programs that do work today to protect our citizens from weapons of mass destruction,” Edwards argued.
He also opined that the United States should not deploy any missile defense system until it has been rigorously tested and officials are confident it will work. In his view, the missile defense system “so far has succeeded in shooting down only one thing: the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.”