February 23, 2024 | National Review

Supporting America’s Allies Puts America First

There’s plenty for MAGA Republicans to like in recent Senate-passed legislation to aid Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.
February 23, 2024 | National Review

Supporting America’s Allies Puts America First

There’s plenty for MAGA Republicans to like in recent Senate-passed legislation to aid Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.

With Ukraine fighting for its life, Israel battling terrorists seeking its destruction, and Taiwan eyeing a growing threat from the Chinese Communist Party, it remains unclear whether Congress will act to help these three beleaguered democracies this year or remain missing in action. MAGA members of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives will likely play a key role in the outcome.

The U.S. Senate voted 70–29 last week to approve more than $95 billion in assistance to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. Twenty-two Republican senators supported the legislation. Despite this bipartisan vote, the bill’s future remains uncertain in the House. When the Senate-passed bill and a similar bill being floated in the House are examined through the lens of the MAGA worldview, it’s clear they are both a veritable ice-cream sundae, including lots to like.

MAGA Republicans emphasize the importance of putting Americans first. That’s exactly what the legislation would do.

Skeptics might push back against such an assertion by noting that the legislation would provide tens of billions of dollars in security assistance to Israel, Taiwan, and Ukraine. But that analysis fundamentally misses the point: By helping these three beleaguered democracies, we are actually helping ourselves — both our security and our economy.

The United States is confronting the most daunting array of national-security threats it’s faced in decades, including China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, as well as continued threats from terrorist organizations. To make matters worse, these adversaries are increasingly working together to undermine the United States and attack its core interests. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that Americans aren’t confronting these threats alone. The United States enjoys an unparalleled network of allies and partners to help. This isn’t about having friends D.C. bureaucrats can toast at cocktail parties in Brussels or Davos. Where the rubber meets the road, U.S. allies and partners help lighten the security burden Americans must carry against common enemies, prevent war, and inflict damage on our adversaries.

That’s certainly true with Israel, which is battling Hamas, an Iran-backed terrorist organization with a cozy relationship with the Kremlin. Hamas’s original charter makes clear that it is committed to the murder of Jews and the extermination of the State of Israel. The horrors of October 7 should put to rest any lingering questions about whether Hamas still harbors such goals.

Hamas is also very happy to kill Americans, as it did on that horrible day. That’s hardly surprising, as Hamas’s sick terrorist ideology is similar to that of al-Qaeda and ISIS. Indeed, Israel is fighting on the front lines in the battle between civilization and barbarism — and helping Israel in that fight helps America. In fact, the more we can help our Arab and Israeli partners in the Middle East take on terrorists there, the less likely those terrorists will once again kill Americans here, as they did on September 11, 2001.

The same logic applies to support for Ukraine.

Russia represents one of the two most serious military threats to the United States, and Vladimir Putin has never missed an opportunity to undermine and weaken the U.S.

Since February 24, 2022, when Putin launched the largest invasion in Europe since World War II, the United States has committed approximately $44 billion in security assistance to Ukraine. To put that number in perspective, it represents a relatively paltry 2.7 percent of what Washington spent on the Pentagon over the same period.

And what did Americans get for that investment?

For less than 3 percent of what we spent on the Pentagon, that U.S. security assistance helped Ukrainians destroy more than 7,700 Russian tanks and armored vehicles, 223 Russian fighter aircraft and helicopters, and at least 21 naval vessels — all without putting a single American service member in harm’s way.

This is not a so-called endless war for American troops; there are no U.S. troops fighting in Ukraine. This is passing a baseball bat over the back fence to your neighbor so they can defeat the home invader who is eyeing your home next — or at least bruise him so badly that he reconsiders his line of work.

By providing Ukraine with the means to weaken the Russian military and underscoring American political will to oppose aggression in Eastern Europe, Washington decreases the chances that Putin will attack a NATO state, which would almost certainly pull Americans into direct conflict with Russia and result in American casualties. So, by giving Ukraine weapons now, we are saving American lives later.

That’s not charity; that’s a wise and sustainable investment.

And what are the Europeans doing? A Pentagon official said last week that the United States is not even the top donor to Ukraine. In fact, the United States ranks 16th among nations when it comes to providing security assistance to Ukraine as a percentage of gross domestic product. Europeans are continuing to step up their support, but American weapons remain vital. That’s why risks will only grow if Congress continues to dither.

As for Taiwan, let’s be clear: Deterrence failed in both Ukraine and Israel, and now we are paying the price. If deterrence fails in Taiwan, the security, economic, and reputational harm to the United States could be devastating.

Investments made by the United States, combined with Taiwan’s increasing defense spending, will make Taiwan an unappealing candidate for consumption by the authoritarian predator in Beijing. Investments now in specific programs and munitions for the Indo-Pacific will improve U.S. military posture and capability there and will be much cheaper than a future war we could have deterred.

If a MAGA House member remains skeptical of these arguments, consider what Senator Roger Wicker, the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said last week regarding the Senate-passed legislation: “The United States’ economy also stands to gain as 75 percent of the bill’s funding will go to Americans, including $59 billion for weapons production.” Those investments will spur the U.S. economy, employ Americans, and supercharge American factories and innovation centers. That will increase American defense-production capacity and ensure our troops have the best weapons in the world and never confront a better-armed adversary.

There’s much to disagree on these days in Washington. But providing Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan with the weapons they need to fight our common adversaries, while at the same time improving our capacity to prevent and win future wars, is one policy everyone should be able to get behind.

Bradley Bowman is the senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). Mark Montgomery is a retired Navy rear admiral and the senior director of the Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation at FDD.


China Israel Israel at War Military and Political Power Russia U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy Ukraine