‘A New Policy of Peace through Strength’: Johnson Renews Conservative Foreign Policy Vision

On the eve of the 2024 NATO Summit in the nation’s capital, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) delivered a sweeping foreign policy speech that illustrated how the Biden administration’s “weakness” on the world stage has fueled global unrest, highlighted China as the “greatest threat to global peace,” and presented a conservative approach to once again attain “peace through strength.”

The speech, delivered on Monday at the Washington, D.C.-based Hudson Institute, marked the first major foreign policy-focused address of Johnson’s ninth month tenure as speaker. It concentrated broadly on the threats facing the U.S.-led world order and cast a vision for what a Republican-based foreign policy looks like, which he described as a strategy centered on both “realism” and “strength.”

“[T]he Republican Party is not one of nation builders or careless interventionists,” the speaker underscored. “We don’t believe we should be the world’s policeman. Nor are we idealists who think we can placate tyrants. We are realists. We don’t seek out a fight, but we know … we have to be prepared to fight. And if we must fight, we fight with the gloves off. And today, when our adversaries don’t need to cross oceans to harm our people, we need a new policy of peace through strength for the 21st century.”

Johnson starkly laid out the breadth of global threats facing the U.S., led by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). “It’s an interconnected web of threats … a China-led axis composed of partner regimes in Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and even Cuba. Now, they each have their own cultures and their own specific, sinister aims, but they all wake up every morning thinking how they can take down America, and they are increasingly using their collective military, technological, and financial resources to empower one another in their various efforts to cut off our trade routes and steal our technology and harm our troops and upend our economy. Iran works with Russia to produce Shahed drones to hunt down … Ukrainians every day, while Russia launches North Korean missiles at Ukraine’s electrical grids using technology provided by the Chinese.”

The speaker further detailed how interconnected China and other countries are in fueling the crisis along the U.S. southern border. “China, our single greatest threat, is engaging in malign influence operations around the world and is even working with cartels now, backed by Cuba and Venezuela, to poison Americans with fentanyl. China, Russia, and Iran all work with Cuban intelligence outposts to target Americans and provide safe harbor for terrorists in transit. And all these enemies operate in our hemisphere … and they’re trading oil with Venezuela, which is pushing illegal aliens and violent criminals towards our borders.”

Johnson went on to lambast the Democratic foreign policy that laid the groundwork for where the world currently stands. “During the Obama administration, we saw eight years of international apology tours,” he lamented. “We saw the sequestration of our military, the buildup of ISIS, Russia’s invasion into Crimea, the spread of malign Chinese influence around the globe, and in a nuclear deal that gave Iran everything they wanted. And what are we facing today? The same failures we saw under Obama have happened under Joe Biden, because he’s empowered an out of touch foreign policy establishment who has an agenda very different than the one that we need right now.”

He continued, “Their agenda is about once again appeasing and apologizing and accommodating. Joe Biden doesn’t treat China like an enemy. He’s stopped supporting Israel and has cozied up to Iran to revive the failed nuclear deal. And in the most inexplicable policy imaginable, he’s opened our borders wide to spies and terrorists while reducing sanctions on Latin dictators who wreak havoc in our backyard. And the results of this were completely foreseeable, and we’re all living through it. Obama’s weakness invited aggression, and Biden’s weakness has fueled that aggression like nothing we’ve seen since World War II.”

The speaker proceeded to set forth the priorities that Republicans will aim for in order to stabilize national and global security.

“First, we have to strengthen our domestic position because national security begins at home,” Johnson emphasized. “[O]ur biggest national security challenge is our national debt. … I can promise you that come 2025, spending reform will be a top priority for our new Republican majority. … Congress has to prioritize the truly essential needs of our nation, and our national security has to be at the top of that list.”

First on the list is making sure the U.S. military is “a credible deterrent to our adversaries,” the speaker argued. “That’s why we invested $23 billion to restock essential weapons and rebuild our defense capacities in the April National Security Supplemental bill.” In addition, Johnson noted, “House Republicans pushed back on the Biden administration’s policy of Iran appeasement and secured the toughest Iran sanctions package in nearly a decade. We leveraged our economic influence against CCP-controlled TikTok. We passed the REPO Act that allows us to seize Russian oligarchs’ bank assets to pay for assistance in Ukraine, and in the Ukraine supplemental, we mandated cost matching for European allies.”

The Louisiana lawmaker further outlined legislation that House Republicans are putting forward to counter China.

“China poses the greatest threat to global peace,” he reiterated. “The House will be voting on a series of bills to empower the next administration to hit our enemy’s economies. On day one, we will build our sanctions package to punish the Chinese military firms that provide material support to Russia and Iran, and we’ll consider options to restrict outbound investments in China. We’re working on a piece of legislation to move this fall to do that very thing. We will vote on the Bio Secure Act, which will halt federal contracts with biotech companies that are beholden to adversaries and endanger Americans’ health care data. We’ll end the de minimis privilege for any good subject to Section 301 trade enforcement tariffs, and that will help stymie China’s attempts to exploit American trade. Our goal is to have a significant package of China-related legislation signed into law by the end of this year in this Congress featuring these priorities and many more, and we’ll work aggressively toward that package.”

Johnson also challenged NATO member countries to put a higher priority on military spending. “Every NATO member needs to be spending at least 2% of their GDP on defense,” he stipulated. “That’s the agreement. … There’s 10 or 12 of them that aren’t doing that yet. It’s no longer acceptable that not all NATO members have reached their current commitment. It may even need to be closer to levels during the Cold War. But if we’re all going to enjoy a future of peace and prosperity, we all need to have skin in the game.”

Additionally, the speaker reiterated the GOP’s support for Israel and the importance of standing with America’s allies in protecting trade routes. “Come November, we will be clear about our steadfast support for Israel, and we’ll build upon the Abraham Accords so the Jewish people can enjoy safety and freedom in their homeland. Likewise, in the Indo-Pacific, America must continue to build upon our military and economic relationships with India, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom. We all have strategic interests in the region, and with a strong united front, we can protect our trade routes, our shipping lanes, and all of our shared interests.”

Invoking the Greatest Generation, Johnson urged a renewed commitment to peace through strength. “We can rearm, rebuild, reinvigorate, restore, and reinstate fear in our enemies. We can retake the summit of respect and thus look out on a landscape of peace and prosperity and security. We can show courage, we can show valor, and we can give our grandchildren the chance to grow up not in the shadow of tyranny, but atop our own shining city on a hill. Decline is always a choice, but that is not a choice that Republicans will be making any time soon.”

The speaker closed by quoting a former pope and president in stressing how the U.S. remains the free world’s greatest champion. “Pope Pius XII said it this way, ‘The American people have a great genius for splendid and unselfish actions. Into the hands of America, God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind.’ Reagan said, ‘We are indeed, and we are today the last, best hope of men on earth.’ By God’s grace, we will always be.”


Dan Hart

Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.

EDITORS NOTE: This The Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.

The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

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