Having Exhausted All Other Possibilities, Congress Does the Right Thing

Having Exhausted All Other Possibilities, Congress Does the Right Thing

The recently passed defense aid for American allies sends a clear message that, even in a contentious election year, the United States is embracing its global responsibilities.

Winston Churchill is said to have mused that “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…after they have exhausted all other possibilities.” Based on my travels over the last year, I’d guess that the legendary wartime leader and historian would be smiling at the recent bipartisan passage of National Security Supplementals, including defense aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.

Two months ago, I traveled throughout Ukraine with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. I was moved by the resilience and determination of everyday Ukrainians despite relentless bombardment from Russian forces. Ukraine has withstood brutal attacks on its schools and homes, energy infrastructure, and ports.

Russia began this war with the second-largest military on earth and has cut deals for supplies from countries like Iran and North Korea. Russian soldiers have committed countless atrocities and war crimes—even kidnapping Ukrainian children and carrying them back to Russia. Despite all of this, Ukrainians said to me over and over, “Tell America we are tired but not exhausted.”

Last summer, I visited Israel, not only Tel Aviv and Jerusalem but also Israel’s border with Lebanon. At the border, I walked through a tunnel Hezbollah once used to threaten, attack and kidnap Israelis. I also traveled to the West Bank, and in Ramallah, I saw Palestinians going to school and work every day, trying to build a brighter future for their families.

The terrible events of October 7 and the months that followed remind us how Iran and its proxies remain an existential threat to Israel and its people. The human suffering of the hostages still being held and the 1.2 million Gazans in desperate need of humanitarian assistance reminds us of the terrible price paid when Iran and other terrorist powers are allowed to amass power and expand their network.

I also visited Taiwan. In my meetings with senior officials and business leaders, they made clear that they weren’t seeking formal statehood or provoking Beijing unnecessarily. But they also reaffirmed that they would never surrender their freedoms or their way of life.

Nearly 50 percent of the world’s commercial container traffic flows through the Taiwan Strait every day, and 90 percent of the world’s most advanced semiconductors are made on the island. U.S. support for Taiwan’s defense not only reaffirms for the Taiwanese that we believe in their future, but it makes clear to the world our commitment to the rule of law, freedom of navigation, and the importance of trade and commerce in human development.

American democracy often confounds our enemies and frustrates our friends. Our foreign policies never seem to take the shortest distance between two points, preferring to meander and waver. But moments like the final passage of this assistance package show the world that, just as America never turns its back on key allies and important challenges, they should never fully count us out.

My mother was a little girl living in London during the Blitz. I grew up hearing stories of the dark times and deprivations that Great Britain often encountered in those days. But I also heard how when America came to Great Britain’s aid—which took months of often contentious debate and disagreement to happen—it sent a message of hope to those who had lost so much at the hands of tyrants.

What Republicans and Democrats achieved when they came together on this crucial assistance package is something much more important than mere funding. They sent a clear message that, even in a contentious election year, the United States can be counted on to stand with allies in need.

We Americans often don’t realize how much the free world depends upon us and our leadership. Winston Churchill knew this, and he had boundless faith in America’s ability to do the “right thing,” no matter how frustrating it appears along the way.

Ambassador Mark Andrew Green, President and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, served as USAID Administrator from 2017-2020 and U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania from mid-2007 to early 2009. Before that, he served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Wisconsin’s 8th District. This opinion is solely that of the author and does not represent the views of the Wilson Center. Follow him on X: @AmbassadorGreen.

Image: Shutterstock.com.