WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley said Friday the rise of the Islamic State group was an unintended consequence of a "mindless rush to war" in Iraq and the U.S. must avoid "mission creep" there now.
In a speech, the former Maryland governor said the invasion of Iraq was one of the most tragic and costly blunders in U.S. history. He made no mention of his Democratic rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who faced criticism during her 2008 presidential campaign for her Senate vote in favor of the 2003 invasion, which she has since called a mistake.
"No threat probably better illustrates the unintended consequences of a mindless rush to war — and a lack of understanding — than the emergence of ISIS," O'Malley said in his first foreign policy address as a presidential candidate, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.
He added: "We are still paying the price of a war pursued under false pretenses and acquiesced to, in the words of Dr. (Martin Luther) King (Jr.) by 'the appalling silence of the good.' "
Speaking to the Truman National Security Project, O'Malley said there is a risk that American military involvement in Iraq could be counter-productive. He said the U.S. should work with partners to "contain, degrade and ultimately wear down and defeat ISIS."
O'Malley said American foreign and national security policies are directly connected to economic stability around the globe and a rising global middle class. He said the U.S. faces an array of threats, from violent extremism and nuclear proliferation, to pandemics and cyberattacks. He advocated tackling climate change, promoting fair trade and addressing poverty around the world.
The ex-governor trails Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the early stages of the Democratic primary campaign and could be at a disadvantage on foreign policy against Clinton, who traveled the globe as President Barack Obama's secretary of state.
Ahead of next week's deadline on Iran talks, O'Malley said a nuclear-armed Iran is among the most immediate threats faced by the U.S. He said Congress would be wise to support a "verifiable, enforceable agreement" that bars Iran's path to developing nuclear weapons.
O'Malley also said there are "real lessons" to be learned from the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens. A GOP-led House panel has been investigating the attack and Clinton's actions.
O'Malley said the Benghazi attack shows the need to "know in advance who is likely to take power — or vie for it — once a dictator is toppled, not after."
Doug Wilson, O'Malley's foreign policy adviser, said the speech was not "about Hillary Clinton and the State Department," but about how O'Malley would conduct foreign policy if elected president.
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