By aiding Ukraine, Mike Johnson makes America great again

The curious taste some Republicans have demonstrated in the last few years for undermining the defense of nations on the front line of a global struggle against states that are sworn to undo America’s power will be one for historians—and perhaps psychologists—to ponder.
The curious taste some Republicans have demonstrated in the last few years for undermining the defense of nations on the front line of a global struggle against states that are sworn to undo America’s power will be one for historians—and perhaps psychologists—to ponder.

Summary

No country on Earth has anywhere near the ability to project power around the world at so little cost.

With his courageous and principled efforts to secure support for a vital legislative package of aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, House Speaker Mike Johnson not only has strengthened U.S. allies and sent a powerful warning to our adversaries. He is making America great again.

The curious taste some Republicans have demonstrated in the last few years for undermining the defense of nations on the front line of a global struggle against states that are sworn to undo America’s power will be one for historians—and perhaps psychologists—to ponder. For now, we can be grateful that, with an appropriation of taxpayer funds that represents 0.3% of gross domestic product, America has sent an unmistakable reminder to those revisionist powers: We are bigger than you. We are richer than you. And we will do what we need to do to stop you.

We can all be grateful that enough Republicans still seem to understand the concept of peace through strength—and the need from time to time to put some resources behind demonstrating that strength.

That is American greatness.

If you don’t believe that the $95 billion for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan will have an outsize negative effect on our adversaries’ ability to harm America’s interests, listen to their panicked responses:

“Washington’s deeper and deeper immersion in the hybrid war against Russia will turn into a loud and humiliating fiasco for the United States such as Vietnam and Afghanistan," said Maria Zakharova, press spokeswoman at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Moscow.

“This threatens . . . the most devastating consequences including asymmetric responses, anywhere and at any time," Sergey Mironov, leader of A Just Russia—for Truth party, an ally of President Vladimir Putin.

“I cannot with all sincerity not wish for the United States to plunge into a new civil war as quickly as possible," Dimitry Medvedev, a former president and now deputy chairman of Russia’s security council, was reported as saying.

Dark, empty threats. Terrors for children. The weak always make loud noises in the hope of frightening the strong. But the shriller the cries, the more you can hear the unmistakable sound of fear in the loudmouth’s voice.

We focus a lot inevitably on our many internal failings, and rightly so. No one should turn away from the rot that is eating away at our institutions, our national unity, our very identity. Last week I castigated the Biden administration for its pusillanimity in the face of the challenges we face.

But we shouldn’t omit either to take a global perspective, to remember how the rest of the world sees America and its power, and to remind ourselves what they well know—how awesome that power is.

No country on Earth has anywhere near the resources, the capability and now we can say, at least for a while, the self-confidence, to project power—hard, soft and every other sort—around the world at so little cost to itself.

While the U.S. may not be the unipolar power that it was in the immediate post-Cold War world, consider this: For the price of about three weeks’ worth of Social Security payments, or, if you prefer, slightly less than three months’ worth of Apple sales, we are significantly bolstering Ukraine’s ability to keep Russia’s military at bay, enabling Israel to keep crushing (if the president will only let it) Iran’s terrorist proxies, and supplying valuable reinforcements for Taiwan’s defenses against communist China.

Of course this isn’t enough. It’s our advantage to have that kind of unique power in the world, but we are in danger of letting it atrophy. There is a strange ambivalence in President Biden’s strategic ambitions as he builds up our allies’ military capabilities while running down ours. It is time our leaders recognized that the short post-Cold War peace dividend has run out and that our defense spending needs to grow in real terms. And politicians on all sides need to get serious about the dramatic fiscal erosion that will undermine our efforts to stay strong in the longer term.

Nor should the continuing scale of U.S. power let allies off the hook for their own defense. One distinct benefit that has come from the failure of the Republican-led House to augment support for Ukraine in the past 16 months is that it has finally jolted our European allies out of their complacency. We shall see if they make good on their promises, but so far they seem to be slowly coming to understand that the defense of their Continent is primarily their responsibility.

Conservatives are right to be alarmed about what is happening at home; the hate and extremism on our campuses, the near-dissolution of our border, the accelerating rot of our media, the politicization of our law enforcement, the undermining of our values and our identity.

But addressing those pathologies doesn’t require us to disown our leading global role. It needn’t force us to abandon our willingness to use our unrivaled resources to defend ourselves from the rising threats to our global security. In fact the two are complementary.

The next Republican president should grasp this opportunity. The other thing Speaker Johnson and his GOP allies have done this week is point the way to a conservatism that can truly make America great—at home and abroad.

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