This week, both chambers of the United States Congress passed a vital and historic package of foreign policy funding.  Over the course of just a few hours on Saturday, the House of Representatives successfully voted in desperately needed military assistance for three valiant underdogs: Taiwan, Israel, and Ukraine. It also passed an important piece of legislation that would ban TikTok unless control over the app is transferred away from its current ownership, which is directly linked to the Chinese Communist Party.

The day before these historic votes, the House of Representatives Select Committee on Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party released a detailed report of $6.5 billion sent by US investor funds, such as Blackrock, to Chinese entities, including those directly tied to the Chinese Communist government. 

The timing of these votes is also an important indicator for those who fear a resurgence of isolationism in the Republican Party.  These votes demonstrate that the isolationist wing of the right is much weaker than it appears.  As Ben Domenech wrote this week in The Spectator, in a review of an important new book, We Win, They Lose: Republican Foreign Policy and the New Cold War by Matthew Kroenig and Dan Negrea, the majority of Republicans do not want to see a retracting of the American-led international order.  Domenech’s article reports the disjunct between the minority of isolationist voices like J.D. Vance and the wider sense among centrists and conservatives that America still has a vital role to play in the world. The shift in national rhetoric has made it increasingly clear that America should pursue its vital interests in ways that encourage and work through other countries acting on their own national interest. This was the message of the Trump national security policy; not disengagement, but an expectation that others should pay their fair share and act responsibly. 

It is unfortunate that some crazed electioneering managed to nearly derail financial support for Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel, but the House and Senate votes demonstrate that the majority of our elected representatives recognize how important it is that America’s external defense is over there, not just over here. Ukraine is fighting on NATO’s flank against our historic enemy, KGB-trained leaders and oligarchs ruling in Moscow.  Russia has engaged in armed aggression in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine as well as sown chaos among its Baltic and Scandinavian neighbors. Containing Russia is an American national security imperative.

With our help, Israel is fighting radical Islamism in southern Lebanon, Gaza, Iran, and the wildernesses of Yemen.  In doing so, it is defending a larger order that includes neighbors such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia.  Clearly, the Biden administration and the majority of Republican voters understand the broader context of Israel’s fight, so support for the Jewish state was quite high in Congress, despite the ugly scenes on American university campuses. The difference of opinion is likely explainable by the graphically violent imagery from October 7th that Members of Congress, as well as the Biden Administration, have had access to, leading them to understand the enduring threat posed by Hamas.

When it comes to Taiwan and our other Pacific allies, we must recognize that these friendly nations represent bulwarks of democracy for countering and containing China’s expansion in the Far East. If China were to treat its neighbors as it treats its own people with surveillance, forced labor, and violent persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, we would have a war in the Far East.  Sooner or later it may come to that, so strengthening Taiwan and other allies (South Korea, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, etc.) is crucial.

What didn’t happen on Saturday was funding for the US border, which is the number one concern of likely Democrat and Republican voters. This issue has caught the Biden administration off guard due to its terrible border and immigration policies. Nevertheless, whether it’s the US-Mexican border, Ukraine, the Middle East, or the Far East, the majority of Americans and the representatives we have elected are not isolationists. America continues to be a force for good in the world. 

We need to clearly articulate America’s strategic interests and responsibilities to our young people. America continues to have an outsized leadership role in defending the values of Western civilization among our allies and on our borders because we are engaged in a contest of not just economic and military strength, but also of ideas: on the one hand, the modern world of a rules-based, human dignity affirming, free world and, on the other, the old world of totalitarians and murderers who use violence and the threat of violence to overcome their opponents.  Ronald Reagan, in a speech to the British Parliament in 1982, could have been speaking to us today:

Our military strength is a prerequisite to peace, but let it be clear we maintain this strength in the hope it will never be used, for the ultimate determinant in the struggle that’s now going on in the world will not be bombs and rockets, but a test of wills and ideas, a trial of spiritual resolve, the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish, the ideals to which we are dedicated.