McConnell on Sec. Mark Esper and World Affairs
‘The Secretary brought integrity, expertise, and steady leadership to the Pentagon’s top job. I am grateful for his work to keep our country safe, modernize our military, and implement the Trump Administration’s new National Defense Strategy to address the challenges of our time.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding Secretary Mark Esper and world affairs:
“Yesterday, the President informed us that Secretary Mark Esper’s tenure leading the Department of Defense has concluded.
“When the Senate considered Secretary Esper’s nomination, I said you could hardly invent better qualifications to run the Pentagon than his resume. From West Point and the 101st Airborne to his time as Secretary of the Army, this leader had stepped up when his country needed him.
“The Secretary brought integrity, expertise, and steady leadership to the Pentagon’s top job.
“I am grateful for his work to keep our country safe, modernize our military, and implement the Trump Administration’s new National Defense Strategy to address the challenges of our time. A decorated combat veteran himself, he won the respect of the men and women of our Armed Forces.
“The country is grateful for his career of service.
“During this time of transition, I’m confident in the professionalism of the men and women of the Department of Defense, not to mention our uniformed services. We are lucky to have such capable and duty-focused men and women on the watch, defending the Constitution, deterring our adversaries, and protecting the peace.
“I expect to speak with Acting Secretary Miller soon to discuss the serious threats facing our country, whether from foreign terrorists or great powers like China and Russia who may seek to exploit a period of uncertainty.
“All this highlights the need for continued sober and steady leadership at the Department.
“As we continue to complete the process of our own election here at home, there is also news on the continued growth of democracy half a world away.
“My colleagues know that I have had a special interest in the democratic aspirations of the people of Burma for decades, dating back to my days leading the Appropriations Subcommittee for State and Foreign Operations.
“Burma held elections on Sunday, which we hope will represent another step toward a more democratic and prosperous future. For too long, the people of Burma were denied democracy by a brutal military junta.
“To this day, its influence remains a significant impediment to progress. And as with many new democracies, the elections faced many challenges, ranging from continued conflict to the coronavirus pandemic.
“But when the votes are counted and Burma’s next government is seated, more hard work will await.
“The government will need to continue advancing Burma’s democratic development.
“Its sovereignty must be defended against the corrupting foreign influence of the People’s Republic of China. The nation needs true national reconciliation among Burma’s various ethnic groups, and further economic reforms to benefit all its people.
“Further progress will take real compromise and real sacrifice from parties and interests within Burma. And it will need continued support from the international community, particularly the United States.
“I have known Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for many years, and know she remains committed to democracy. So I hope and expect that if she and her party are the victors, her government will seek much-needed constitutional, economic, and security-sector reforms to further limit the corrosive influence of the military and the crony networks over so much of life in Burma.
“We’re talking about a nation that still reserves 25 percent of the seats in parliament for the military itself. It would be an understatement to call that an obstacle toward an ongoing democratic transition.
“Further progress towards democracy and prosperity in Burma will require the inclusion of Burma’s ethnic minorities, and compromise with them.
“It will require national reconciliation to end the disparate civil conflicts that rage across that country. And it will require accountability for atrocities that have been committed by the military – and not just in Rakhine State.
“If Burma’s government meaningfully pursues these kinds of efforts, I expect the United States and like-minded countries will continue to stand by it.
“The free nations of the world have much to gain from Burma’s democratization. And we have much to lose if it slides back into authoritarianism, or further into the grasp and orbit of China.
“As Americans, our political contests here at home can feel intense.
“We think our elections are charged and contentious.
“But when you look at democracies that are just getting off the ground around the world, you remember how blessed we are to live in this republic that has for centuries inspired the forces of democracy and freedom all around the world.
“We get to live in a country where our institutions of self-government have held up for more than 230 years; where the rule of law and our Constitution are paramount.
“May we never take it for granted. And may we continue to support those around the world who seek to emulate our example.”
Related Issues: America's Military, China, National Security, Burma