Ex-Marine Seth Moulton Focuses on National Security

Seth Moulton (Credit - Twitter)
Seth Moulton (Credit – Twitter)

On the Campaign Trail:

Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachussetts is an ex-Marine, one of three military veterans in the 2020 Democratic race. If he runs (he says he’s in “exploratory” mode until May), military service and national security issues will be central to his candidacy.

Moulton is a self-described moderate. His abortive challenge to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was based on his view that the party was skewing too far to the left.

This is the conventional wisdom of the Washington blob, suggesting that President Moulton’s national security agenda would follow the contours of traditional Clinton-Bush-Obama policies. Like Clinton and Obama, he tends to avoid ideological choices by saying he’ll be “smarter.”

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On North Korea: Trump ‘Making World More Dangerous’

On NATO: ‘Strengthen For A New World’

On issues of war and peace, Moulton says the United States must break with the policies of the past, most significantly on NATO. Far more explicitly than other candidates, he calls for rethinking America’s military alliance with Europe.

In a February 2019 speech at the Brookings Institution, Moulton said:

In the wake of Trump’s handling of NATO many will call for re-strengthening that alliance, and I am among them. But NATO was established under 1949 rationale … We need to rethink the strategic role and purpose of NATO. Now is the opportunity presented to us ironically by this Administration to renovate and strengthen it for a new world.

On Russia: We Need an Effective Strategy

Russia’s desperate situation is precisely what makes it so dangerous – and precisely what should concern us here in the US – an emboldened President Putin increasingly driven towards rash, short term calculations. Without a proactive, effective strategy to meet Russia on the advanced battlefield of hybrid warfare and counter President Putin’s whole-of-government strategy against NATO, Russian influence will only continue to grow despite their fundamental economic weakness.

Atlantic Council Speech — 2.2.2016

On Iran: ‘Remains An Enemy’

Let me be clear, the Iran Nuclear Deal is an important step towards preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. But Iran remains our enemy and the deal will only be effective if it is strongly enforced.

Just within the context of our relationship with Iran we can see how “no better friend, no worse enemy” can be effectively employed. Where Iran is compliant, we uphold our diplomatic commitments without compromise; where they continue to flout international agreements outside the nuclear deal, supporting international terrorism and threatening us and our allies, we will stand strongly against them.

Source: Moulton’s Remarks at the Atlantic Council

On Venezuela: No Use of Force

On February 6th, Moulton signed onto House Resolution 1004: Prohibiting Unauthorized Military Action in Venezuela Act as a co-sponsor.

On War: Alliances for Arms Control

In summary, it’s time to completely re-imagine our arms, our alliances, and our arms control for this new and rapidly changing world. All three are indispensable to meet the challenges of the new world order, which emphasizes the importance of an all hands-on deck approach to national security. Russia and China have embraced this, terrorist groups embody it, but here in America we have regressed.


In sum, Moulton is a self-conscious “national security” candidate whose military service is central to his identity and his agenda. He is a hawk on Russia, less so on Iran.

On the interventionist/anti-interventionist spectrum, President Moulton would be closer to the reluctant interventionist end, probably along the lines of Obama.

In the Eyes of ‘the Blob’ and the Secret Intelligence Agencies:

President Moulton would probably work well with policymaking elites, intelligence chiefs, and military leaders disenchanted with Trump, thanks to his military experience and conventional views on national security issues.

Research: Daniel Ortiz

Return to Insider’s Guide to the 2020 Democrats on War and Peace

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