During the first Republican Presidential debate, there was a brief flash of strenuous disagreement between longtime pro-Israel leader Amb. Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, a businessman who recently called for ending all U.S. aid to Israel. To her credit, Amb. Haley was the only candidate on the debate stage who called Ramaswamy out on his anti-Israel position, going so far as to rightly articulate “Israel doesn’t need America, America needs Israel.”

Isolationism in a Nutshell


At the core of the U.S. foreign policy debate on the right is a simple question: Should America lend military and diplomatic aid to its allies? Or more simply, should the U.S. remain engaged with the world?

Effectively, the isolationist position is that we should spend our taxpayer dollars here, rather than aid our allies abroad. And this, of course, has a certain superficial appeal. After all, we have problems at home and we have budget deficits, so, at first glance, this makes sense. But if we scratch just beneath the surface (something demagogues hope people will not do) we find that American engagement with the world, especially military assistance to allies and diplomatic engagement with potential allies, saves us immense blood and treasure as it minimizes the likelihood that authoritarianism will spread to our own shores.


The mainstream view – one to which CUFI generally subscribes – recognizes that you can deal with your enemies abroad, often through allies, or deal with them at home, but eventually, you must face your foes. Why? Because our enemies have a say in all of this as well, and while we may no longer be interested in them, our enemies are lethally persistent in their interest in us.

Such an approach is both hawkish and prudent. Amb. Haley, Vice President Pence, and the majority of those on the GOP debate stage last week support a similar attitude the world. That is, concerning our enemies, and there are many, America’s leaders must remember that we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

At its core, the mainstream foreign policy approach is to ensure our enemies fear us and our allies trust us. Why? Because U.S. engagement in the world provides a significant return on investment. And Israel exemplifies just how strong that return on investment is.

Aid to Israel: The Ultimate ROI


There are three ways in which U.S. aid to Israel, which Mr. Ramaswamy wishes to end, strengthen the United States. First and foremost, there is the moral return on investment. Genesis 12:3 could not be clearer, and U.S. aid to Israel is the most important way in which the U.S. blesses Israel.

Second, investing in Israel provides a vital boost of American military manufacturing capacity – the maintenance of which is vital should the U.S. need to engage in a larger conflict. Under the terms of the current ten-year U.S.-Israel assistance agreement, Jerusalem spends the overwhelming majority of U.S. aid here in the United States, purchasing American weapons and co-producing missile defense systems, thereby helping ensure America’s military production capacity is maintained while simultaneously providing employment to thousands of American. 

Finally, the Israelis have a direct, tangible, and positive impact on American safety and security – both civilian and military. Jerusalem maintains one of the most sophisticated and daring foreign intelligence apparatus in the world. There is no price one could put on the invaluable intelligence Israel provides the U.S. and our allies – intelligence that has directly enabled Western countries to thwart imminent terror attacks on their soil.

But Israel’s contributions to American security do not end there. Israeli soldiers fight our shared enemies, such as Hezbollah, and they take what they’ve learned on the battlefield – strategically, tactically, and technologically – and provide what they’ve learned back to the U.S. 

There are of course countless examples of this, but, to name a few: numerous American servicemembers’ lives were saved by “Israeli battlefield bandages,” during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, reactive armor tiles developed by Israeli companies saved U.S. troops inside tanks and other fighting vehicles, U.S. produced aircraft, such as the F-16, have received scores of Israeli technological updates including targeting pods which played a key role in the elimination of Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

And most recently the U.S. Marine Corps elected to acquire three Iron Dome missile defense batteries – a technology that would not exist were it not for American financial aid and joint U.S.-Israeli research and cooperation (a partnership the other countries in Europe and the Middle East envy). It should come as little surprise, then, that defense experts often describe Israel as an extra U.S. carrier battle group in the Middle East.

The Axis of Authoritarianism

So, where does all of this leave us? First, the isolationists are dangerously wrong. Retreating from the world will not make us safer, and cutting off aid to allies fighting shared enemies (be it Ukraine or Israel), will not magically enable us to build a utopia here at home.

Regular readers of the Action Update have heard us mention the Iran-China-Russia Axis of Authoritarianism and it’s here that the isolationists’ viewpoint goes from bad to calamitous. If Russia defeats Ukraine that will embolden Moscow and it may convince China to invade Taiwan (another U.S. ally with an immoral, threatening neighbor). While we are a one-issue organization, such events would have a direct, negative impact on American and Israeli security because of what Iran will be empowered to do if America were to stop aiding American allies.

For Iran, a world without U.S. leadership would be a financial and geo-political bonanza. First, they get to sell even more weapons to Russia so that Putin can kill even more innocent Ukrainians. Second, Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and the same would happen if China invades Taiwan, have compelled the U.S. to focus on that issue, which would give Iran even more breathing room in the context of its malign activities.

Finally, the battle between good and evil is a zero-sum game. If the isolationists have their way and the U.S. retreats from the world, evil – personified by regimes in Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran – will fill the vacuum. At that point it’s anyone’s guess what the next great calamity will be, but if the Islamic Republic has its way, it’ll be Tehran with a newly acquired nuclear deterrence allowing the Islamic Republic to terrorize whomever they want, wherever they want.

So, as we promised, if you scratch beneath the surface, it turns out leaving our allies to stand up to the likes of Iran, Russia, and China on their own won’t save us money and won’t solve America’s domestic challenges – it’ll only make the world a darker and more perilous place with a much bigger cost to bear at the end of the day.


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