|Political Career |
Connecticut Senate, 1971-81; candidate for Connecticut lieutenant governor, 1978; Democratic nominee for U.S. House of Representatives, 1980; Connecticut attorney general, 1983-88; U.S. Senate, 1989-present; Democratic nominee for vice president, 2000
Yale University, B.A., 1964; LL.B., 1967
Foreign Policy Advisers
Exclusive adviser: Colonel Fred Downey (U.S. Army, Ret.); also consults with Sandy Berger, Ashton Carter, Martin Indyk, Kenneth Pollack
Joe Lieberman is determined not to be painted by Republicans as soft on defense; he has expressed strong support for several military actions. During the first Bush administration, he served as lead Democratic co-sponsor of the 1991 Gulf War Resolution. In 1998 he teamed up with Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) to enact the Iraq Liberation Act, which stated that regime change in Iraq was U.S. policy. In the fall of 2002, Lieberman was a lead sponsor of a resolution authorizing the president to use force, if necessary, to enforce UN Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq. The senior senator from Connecticut is also a firm supporter of strategic and theater missile defense, believing that “any defense in the face of a nuclear missile attack is worth having.” The ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Airland Subcommittee has endorsed President George W. Bush’s decision to deploy a limited Ground-Based Midcourse Missile Defense (GMD) but thinks additional flight and program tests are needed. He opposed Bush’s 2001 decision to abrogate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
On other issues, Lieberman falls comfortably in the middle of his Democratic brethren. He strongly supported ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and proposed a bipartisan review of the CTBT as a last-ditch compromise after the treaty was rejected by the Senate in 1999. He also disagrees with Bush administration proposals for researching, building, and possibly testing a new generation of nuclear weapons. In particular, during the fiscal year 2004 defense authorization process, he opposed repealing restrictions on research that might lead to the development of low-yield nuclear weapons and argues that any attempts to lower the nuclear threshold are ill advised. “In addition to undermining our international nonproliferation efforts, a new generation of nuclear weapons, especially the low-yield variety envisioned by the administration, will blur the bright lines between conventional and nuclear capabilities, and raise the likelihood of resorting to the latter,” Lieberman stated Sept. 16 on the Senate floor during debate over the authorization bill.
Believing that a nuclear explosion on the U.S. homeland represents the single biggest threat to the United States, the senator is a strong proponent of using arms control treaties and other nonproliferation regimes as tools for preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. He is also an enthusiastic supporter of programs to reduce Russia’s stock of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and, if elected president, promises to double U.S. investment in those programs. Yet, as he wrote in the March/April 2003 issue of Foreign Policy, “[P]reventative efforts might fail, so an effective missile defense system is also necessary.”
In dealing with foreign threats, Lieberman disagrees with Bush’s moves to include the use of pre-emptive military force in its formal strategic doctrine, although he believes it should remain an option in the president’s toolbox. Instead, he stresses the need to give states incentives as well as disincentives to forswear weapons of mass destruction. Nevertheless, he remains supportive of Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. “I don’t have any second thoughts about supporting the war,” he said Sept. 10, 2003, at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It was the right thing to do, and we are safer as a result of it.”
Unlike the Bush administration, which prefers multilateral talks, Lieberman favors direct negotiations to end Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. Lieberman would use a two-part strategy to test North Korea’s assertions that it is willing to renounce nuclear weapons if its security concerns are addressed. First, he would offer North Korea security guarantees if and when Pyongyang pledges to tear up its entire nuclear weapons program. Then, if North Korea fulfilled these commitments, Lieberman would provide Pyongyang with economic aid and other assistance. Lieberman supported the 1994 Agreed Framework that the Clinton administration negotiated with Pyongyang and says that he would support similar measures again.
Lieberman supports giving India and Pakistan “fail-safe” technologies that would allow them to manage their nuclear arsenals better. Proliferation experts contend that such assistance could violate the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which prohibits assistance to other nations in obtaining nuclear arms.