The world we live in is both increasingly globalized and increasingly dangerous. There are more than 20 countries currently battling violent internal instability problems involving the use of military forces. Planes are being shot out of the sky over Ukraine and rockets are flying toward skyscrapers in Tel Aviv — and Americans have died in violence related to both of those conflicts.
Both the left and the right are currently struggling with neo-isolationism. Whether in response to fringe progressives on the left or radical libertarians on the right, The Israel Project has worked to boost the bipartisan voices in the vast center calling for continued American engagement in the world. In such an environment, it seems clear that we need our allies, and our allies need us.
And yet there are those on the left and the right calling for America to withdraw from the global scene. Polls show Americans are increasingly disgusted with foreign activities in general. They are being led, and in some cases followed, by members of both parties. The trends could not be more troubling.
Turning inward cannot and will not insulate the United States from the security challenges we face. Violence and instability in seemingly far-off regions of the world have a direct impact on the safety and security of our country.
Benign neglect is also not a solution. To take just one example, American hopes that the Syrian conflict would somehow burn itself out have collided with reality. More than 1,700 people died in that war just last week, and terrorists have declared an Islamic State in vast swaths of Iraq and Syria. They’re looking outward. Foreign jihadists from all sides of the conflict are, of course, dying alongside the hundreds of civilians, but the ones who are surviving are emerging battle-hardened and traveling back to their home countries.
Ditto for our hopes that Russia would stand down in Ukraine. Ditto for our hopes that reaching out North Korea would placate its dictators. And ditto for the fantasy that a new, smiling Iranian president would put a stop to the mullahcracy’s atrocities across the Middle East and against Iranians themselves.
Without a strong commitment to protecting American interests and values, conflicts like those in Syria and Ukraine — and murders and tortures like those that happen daily in Iran — will become the new normal. American leadership remains the best chance we have for peace and stability around the world.
Our friends and allies rely on us to maintain our global commitments, and we rely on them to help us advance our common interests in their corners of the world. American withdrawal has in every case been followed by global chaos and destruction, increasingly of nightmarish proportions. It’s the literal definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results — to believe that further reductions in American power will trigger anything but catastrophe.
This brings us to the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Israel plays a role in advancing just about every vital American interest. It’s an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Eastern Mediterranean at a time when our Pentagon is cutting back on actual ships. The Israelis have built defensive technologies like Iron Dome, which is now co-produced in the United States and will make its way to our other allies. It is an economic and technological powerhouse with more companies listed on the NASDAQ than any other foreign country, contributing to our economy in a myriad of ways.
Most immediately, and daily — we and the Israelis share the same terrorist enemies and the same core values.
Iran’s leaders decry Israel as the Little Satan, but in their marches and speeches they still refer to us as the Big Satan. Israel’s work undermining the Iranian nuclear program also protects the United States. Jihadists throughout the region seek to destroy Israel as a way-station to attacking the American homeland. When Israel launches counterterror operations against those terrorists, they remove the threat posted to us as well.
When pro-Palestinian terrorists hijacked Air France Flight 139 with 34 American passengers on board, it was Israel that rescued the hostages. When Saddam Hussein built a nuclear weapons research program at Osirak, it was Israel who eliminated the threat. When Bashar Assad constructed a nuclear weapons facility at al-Khabir, it was Israel that destroyed that, too.
American foreign policy must be aimed at growing and deepening our critical alliances, including our unbreakable relationship with Israel. It is certainly not a coincidence that every successive American president since Harry Truman has — often in as many words — insisted that America has no better friend in the world than Israel.
Josh Block is the CEO and President of The Israel Project, a non-partisan American educational organization dedicated to informing the media and public conversation about Israel and the Middle East.