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  • - I'm Elise Labott and this is the 'US In The World'

  • presidential candidate interview series.

  • We're sponsored by a coalition of leading

  • nonprofit organizations, and we're asking

  • the candidates their views on the challenges

  • and the opportunities facing the U.S. beyond our borders.

  • I'm here with Andrew Yang.

  • Mr. Yang, thanks for joining us.

  • - It's great to be here. Thank you for having me, Elise.

  • - Now, the United States is the richest and most powerful

  • nation, what in your view is the responsibility

  • for the U.S. in the world?

  • - Well, we're the biggest beneficiary

  • of a world order that we helped establish

  • over the past number of decades after World War II.

  • But unfortunately, that order is now disintegrating,

  • in part because our current president

  • is an erratic and unpredictable leader

  • who is calling into question even some of our

  • longest-standing commitments in treaties like NATO.

  • So our role in the world is to help restore

  • and maintain the world order that's been painfully

  • built over the last number of decades

  • and help bring more countries

  • into the developed world as possible.

  • Now, the presidential budget request

  • is really a, you know, statement of principles of the

  • United States and American values.

  • How would your budget reflect American values,

  • as far as the U.S. role in the world?

  • - Well, you have to look at what we're spending

  • money on right now.

  • We're spending about $700 billion on our military,

  • and a lot of that money is not truly making us safe.

  • If you look at the biggest threats of the 21st century,

  • they are not other countries.

  • They are climate change, cybersecurity,

  • infrastructure, and artificial intelligence,

  • the proliferation of loose nuclear material.

  • Like, these are some of the biggest threats of this era.

  • And having another aircraft carrier floating around

  • doesn't necessarily address climate change,

  • as an example.

  • So, to me, we have to try and reprioritize

  • what we're spending the money on,

  • shifting some of this $700 billion in the

  • military-industrial complex over to domestic needs

  • like infrastructure, but also to help mitigate

  • climate change not just here in the U.S.,

  • but around the world.

  • And I think this administration has made a mistake

  • by cutting foreign aid, which, in the scheme

  • of the federal budget, is minuscule.

  • Yeah, it's just about 1%.

  • It's about 1%, and there's a joke

  • that this bank robber, Willie Sutton, told.

  • He was like, 'Why did you rob the bank?'

  • 'Because that's where the money was.'

  • If you're looking to save money in the federal budget,

  • you don't look at the 1% you're spending on foreign aid,

  • you look at the hundreds of billions you're spending

  • on the military-industrial complex.

  • So you would increase foreign aid, then?

  • I would because if you look at it,

  • you get a lot of bang for your buck

  • when you put resources to work in some of these

  • environments where a little goes a long way.

  • And so, if you can help maintain and strengthen societies

  • in other parts of the world, that often will end up

  • helping the U.S. national interest, as well.

  • So you've talked about directing more

  • of the federal budget from foreign pursuits

  • to building infrastructure and other programs at home.

  • How do you see the relationship between the U.S.

  • role in the world and life here at home?

  • Well, to me, they're very much tied together, Elise.

  • And so, you could take it from the fact that

  • if you don't have a sound society here at home,

  • then you end up electing someone like Donald Trump,

  • and then you have a very hard time projecting

  • U.S. strength abroad.

  • So, to me, step #1 is you have to have

  • a society that's functioning at a high level

  • here in the U.S. first.

  • And we don't have that right now

  • on a whole number of measurements and dimensions.

  • We have record high levels of not just financial insecurity,

  • and depression, and anxiety, but also even suicides

  • and drug overdoses.

  • It is gotten so bad that American life expectancy

  • has declined for three years in a row,

  • which is not something you ever see in a developed country.

  • The last time that happened in the United States of America

  • was the great, the flu pandemic of 1918, the Spanish flu.

  • So think about that: You have to go back 100 years

  • to find a time in American history where our life expectancy

  • declined for three years in a row.

  • You don't see that in a developed country traditionally.

  • So step #1 is we have to make ourselves

  • strong and functional-

  • To project power.

  • To be able to project power abroad.

  • Because if you fall apart here, you wind up

  • electing narcissist reality TV stars

  • as your president, and then it's very, very hard

  • to get everything done abroad.

  • So you've pledged to be very judicious and restrained

  • about intervening in other countries' affairs.

  • Under what circumstances would you use military force?

  • We have, at this point, been engaged in continuous

  • armed conflict for the last 18 years.

  • And that's not the way it's drawn up

  • in the Constitution, and that's not the will

  • of the American people.

  • So I have a three-part test for sending our troops

  • into harm's way.

  • 1) There needs to be a clear American

  • national interest or the ability to avert

  • a humanitarian catastrophe.

  • So it needs to be an important reason to go.

  • 2) There needs to be a clearly defined time frame,

  • where it's not open-ended.

  • You can look the troops in the eyes and say,

  • 'You're gonna be here for this long,

  • and we can complete the mission and bring you home.'

  • 3) We need to have partners and allies

  • that are willing to join us in the mission.

  • If these three things are in place,

  • then I would actively consider military intervention.

  • So, is it worth putting U.S. forces at risk

  • when American values and the security of allies

  • are on the line, but our direct security is not?

  • We are only as good as our word.

  • If we have entered into a treaty to defend

  • another country or ally, and then that country

  • is threatened, then that to me is a very clear

  • American national interest because if people don't

  • believe in our word and our commitment,

  • then it's going to very, very hard to get anything done

  • in any foreign theater.

  • So what would a U.S. military footprint look like

  • in a Yang administration?

  • Well, to me, it's about getting smarter and not bigger.

  • So, if you look at, again, the list of major threats-

  • climate change, infrastructure, and artificial intelligence,

  • loose nuclear material-that's not about having

  • more military bases, that's about having more responsive

  • 21st-century military footprint.

  • So, I would invest in cybersecurity and a cyber corps.

  • And, you know, what's funny is someone asked me yesterday,

  • and they said, 'How would you feel about a cyber militia?'

  • Because it turns out that a lot of the leading experts

  • on internet security don't work for the U.S. government.

  • So what does this cyber militia look like?

  • Like 20-year-olds in a basement or something?

  • Well, it's people like where you're crowdsourcing

  • vulnerabilities, like if you put up a system

  • and say, 'Hey, have at it, and let us know

  • what the vulnerabilities are,' they'll actually

  • be able to tell you.

  • They'll have fun doing it.

  • In a way that, frankly, would be superior to, like, if

  • the government hired a consulting firm military contractor.

  • Like, they just hire different pools of people.

  • And for better or for worse, these loose hackers

  • are much more analogous to the type of people

  • you're worried about than the people

  • in the giant corporate office.

  • So we've talked about what you think are the most

  • major threats. What are the biggest crises

  • facing the U.S. right now?

  • It begins with climate change, which is driving

  • many of the problems around the world.

  • Where what's happening is that you have crop yields dropping

  • and then conflict breaking out in various societies

  • that's kicking off migrant crises

  • that have even destabilized various democracies.

  • Where many societies are not able to properly welcome

  • and acclimate large groups of refugees,

  • and then there have been real issues politically

  • as a result.

  • So climate change, I mean, it's an existential threat

  • to our way of life.

  • I'm a parent and I used to think that we were

  • messing up the world for our grandkids,

  • but now it's clear that we're messing up the world

  • for ourselves and our kids, and that's going to

  • destabilize things, unfortunately, in poorer

  • parts of the world first,

  • where if you think about a flood or a natural disaster,

  • who suffers the most?

  • It's always the poor-

  • Well, exactly.

  • So a lot of these poor, they're not necessarily

  • contributing to it- Oh, of course not.

  • But they also have to adapt to it.

  • How do you make sure that climate policies

  • don't just, aren't beneficial to just the rich,

  • who can afford these renewable energies,

  • but you actually look at the world's poor, who are affected?

  • I was just in New Hampshire, and they have buildings

  • that I know are flooding regularly.

  • They have a shrimping business that went to zero.

  • And if you look around the world, you have Pacific islands

  • that are literally going underwater.

  • And did that Pacific island contribute to global warming?

  • Essentially zero, you know?

  • They didn't have a whole lot in the way of carbon emissions.

  • But they're still affected.

  • But they're still affected, and they're going underwater.

  • So the goal has to be to have a Global Marshall Plan

  • to address climate change.

  • Because the tough truth of it, Elise,

  • is that the United States of America only accounts

  • for 15% of global emissions.

  • So even if we were to go net-zero immediately,

  • like magic, the world would continue to warm.

  • So if we're going to help the people on that Pacific island

  • and the people in other developing countries

  • that are going to be in some cases literally underwater,

  • we have to get our arms around climate change,

  • but we cannot do it alone.

  • It's one reason why international cooperation

  • is so vital in this era because we can't solve

  • the biggest problems alone.

  • So how would you use U.S. foreign assistance,

  • and you talk about climate diplomacy,

  • to address these challenges?

  • So if the rest of world accounts for 85%

  • of carbon emissions, we have to be there at the table

  • with them, trying to guide them toward more renewable

  • sources of energy.

  • And right now China is exporting coal-burning power plants

  • to Africa and other developing countries.

  • They're showing up and saying, 'You need power,

  • I've got a coal-burning power plant for you.'

  • And then what does the African country say?

  • Thank you. Great, thank you, right.

  • Right. They're just thrilled

  • to have some power.

  • So the climate diplomacy we have to engage in

  • is to be there at the table with the African government

  • and say, 'Hey, instead of the coal-burning power plant,

  • how about these solar panels?'

  • That's the kind of relationship we have to have

  • with these developing countries to try and move them

  • in the right direction.