Jeff Robbins: Ukrainian Takeaways – Strong National Defense and American Leadership Needed More Than Ever | Columns
The first month of Russia’s barbaric campaign to conquer Ukraine and the inspiring resistance of Ukrainians have reminded Americans of a fact that has become obscured in recent years: it is crucial that the United States maintain an extremely strong national defense. and remain ready to lead the world. stage.
The proposition that America must have a first-class military, and that it must make the necessary investments to ensure that we have it, has been derided in the more left-wing sections of the Democratic Party, where a certain unawareness of the world and what happens if America is not prepared to lead it dominates. The clichés that we “can’t be the world’s police” go no further; the need for a military fully prepared to defend America and help defend its allies has not seemed so obvious since the late 1940s. Russia’s massacre of Ukrainians and its threats to do other former Soviet republics what it does to Ukraine did not place traditional progressive remedies on defense readiness in a particularly favorable light.
Directly or indirectly, Ukrainians look to America for sophisticated military hardware so they can save themselves from the Russian onslaught. In order to provide it, we must have it; to get it you have to pay. Our allies in Eastern, Central, and even Western Europe are counting on America to partner with them to protect against Russia, and wishing it weren’t does little good.
This means that the United States simply must have the ability to project military force. While some have scoffed at the notion of ‘peace through strength’, the Ukrainian experience has made the notion a little less mocking.
And it’s not just Russia that we need to be well enough armed to deter. It is China that threatens Taiwan. It is North Korea that poses the least threat to South Korea. And it is Iran, long named by our State Department as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, racing to acquire nuclear weapons and winning that race, that threatens the entire Middle East and -of the.
That’s not to say that we should mock the defense industry and its lobbyists or succumb to contractor scams about weapon systems that aren’t needed, or don’t work, or aren’t worth it. the money. But it means learning the lesson that Russian aggression against Ukraine has taught the world: democracies cannot invite aggression and must be prepared to stop it.
Fortunately, even a Congress divided along party lines and afflicted by historically vitriolic partisanship agrees on the need to preserve, if not enhance, American strength. “While the voices calling on America to cut its defense may have loud megaphones,” Thomas Spoehr of the Heritage Center wrote last December, “they are a distinct minority.” Spoehr was referring to lopsided votes in both houses of Congress in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2022. The Senate approved it 88 to 11 after the House did 363 to 70. And that was two months before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Americans were also reminded of what it means when we lead the free world. Through his dignity, his respect for our allies, and his willingness to patiently do the hard work of diplomacy out of public view, President Joe Biden has helped restore at least some of our lost credibility — and our self-respect.
But a prerequisite for leading is deserving to lead. That will mean putting aside embarrassing fruitcakes like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and dangerous demagogues like Prince Bone Spurs of Mar-a-Lago. This will mean holding those responsible for the January 6, 2021 coup attempt fully and publicly accountable, and more.
It is both a terrible time and, in some ways, oddly hopeful. For America, now is the time to pull together all that is needed to rise to the occasion.
First Amendment lawyer Jeff Robbins is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing about politics, national security, human rights and the Middle East.