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Why Speaker Mike Johnson should allow a vote on Ukraine and Israel aid

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., talks to reporters during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on February 14, 2024, in Washington, D.C.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., talks to reporters during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on February 14, 2024, in Washington, D.C. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

After contentious debate, the U.S. Senate passed a $95.3 billion national security supplemental. The measure helps Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan defend against totalitarian regimes bent on their destruction and rebuilds American defense stocks. Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan are asking for the same kind of assistance that the French gave Americans during the American Revolution.

Though the vote was bipartisan, with 22 Senate Republicans joining 45 Democratic colleagues in advancing the legislation, passage is far less certain in the House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a very narrow majority.

Speaker Mike Johnson, who met last month with the NATO general secretary and pledged support for Ukraine, is a lifelong supporter of Israel. Nevertheless, he acknowledged the difficulty of this supplemental passing the lower chamber. Johnson expressed reservations due to the lack of border security reform being included in the legislation.

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We are grateful for Speaker Johnson’s leadership, both as a trustee at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, where we both served and as a stalwart conservative in the U.S. House of Representatives. And we share with him the disappointment at the failure of the Biden administration to meaningfully secure our borders. We also believe, as does Speaker Johnson, that the Biden administration’s feckless foreign policy has led us to this dangerous moment in history. Nevertheless, we strongly urge the speaker to put this national security supplemental on the floor for a vote, which we believe would pass in a bipartisan fashion. We should never make the perfect the enemy of the good.

America and the world are in this position due to a series of foreign policy mistakes that have projected American weakness around the world. The disastrous pullout of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, which resulted in the fall of Kabul to the Taliban and the abandonment of our NATO partners, not only betrayed our promises to our Afghan allies but signaled to evil actors that the United States is retreating from the world stage. Vladmir Putin seized on American weakness and President Biden’s refusal to take Russian advances on Ukraine seriously.

Biden foolishly waived sanctions on the Nordstream pipeline, allowing Russia to bypass Ukraine and provide energy to Europe. He waived off Russian troop buildup and even seemed to indicate tolerance with a “minor incursion” into Ukraine. Sensing little resistance, Russia did invade and while committing a litany of war crimes and atrocities which continue to this day, has met courageous resistance from the Ukrainian people fighting for their nation. Southern Baptists have seen both the resolute courage of their fellow Baptists, who endure cruel persecution in the Russian-occupied territories and support Ukraine’s efforts against their totalitarian foes.

We are nearing the two-year mark of this war, and while the U.S. and Europe have lent significant support, Ukraine is still badly in need of replenishing its weapons supplies.

We understand that Americans are war-weary from Iraq and Afghanistan, and we understand that the federal deficit is ballooning out of control and there is understandable caution about spending more. However, $95.3 billion is a fraction of the federal deficit and investing in Ukraine now is the best guarantee that we DON’T have to invest American troops in combat defending NATO later.

If we allow Ukraine to fall to Russia, it strengthens Putin, who has designs on at least the Baltic states and Poland, NATO allies that treaty would require far more than the mere weapons we are now currently giving Ukraine.

This national security supplemental also helps fund Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas. As Biden’s resolve to support our most cherished Middle East ally wanes, as protests in favor of Hamas gather steam in cities around the world, as genocidal terrorists continue to proclaim their desire to wipe out all Jewish people from the Middle East, the U.S. must support Israel.

Just as Biden’s scandalously irresponsible withdrawal from Afghanistan emboldened Putin, it similarly emboldened the mullahs in Iran. Consequently, Iran has raised the stakes by encouraging its proxy, Hamas, to commit egregious and horrendous crimes against the Israeli Jewish population. Continuing to help Israel defend itself is part of fulfilling the world’s responsibility for having allowed the Holocaust to happen.

All of this, of course, is being watched by China. As President Xi makes slow, aggressive advances toward Taiwan, he is watching the U.S. closely to see if we are still the resistance to totalitarianism we have been since the end of World War II or if we will descend into tribal and partisan warfare and let evil actors have their way.

The fall of Ukraine to Russia, and a failure of resolve on Israel will only signal to the dictators in Beijing that they have a free hand to take on their island neighbor. Unlike in the case of Ukraine and Israel, it is clear that Taiwan cannot defend itself successfully against Chinese aggression without active American military participation.

These are the reasons why we strongly urge Speaker Johnson to allow a vote on the national security supplemental. We wish President Biden had shown a stronger hand in the early days of his administration. We wish he would have continued President Trump’s strong foreign policy that deterred Russia and China. But America must deal with the world as it is, not as they wish it were.

This is a test of American resolve, a test of whether we will keep our commitments to our NATO allies and to our allies in Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan or whether we will shrink back into the neo-isolationism that was a catalyst for world war a century ago. Republicans have a chance to help correct the weak posture of the current administration.

Though we have seemingly intractable problems at home, we believe America is great enough to do multiple things at the same time and as history has shown, weakness abroad ultimately redounds to weakness at home.

Mr. Speaker, it would be well to heed the advice of the late, great Margaret Thatcher to President George H.W. Bush in the leadup to the first Gulf War in 1993, “This is no time to go wobbly.”

Daniel Darling is the director of The Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.

Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.

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