America’s leaders can and must choose proactive deterrence over reactive retreat
American strength and prosperity require our leaders to boldly stand with our friends and deter those who wish to inflict damage to our people and our homeland.
Nancy Pelosi demonstrated the will appropriate for the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives when she followed through on her visit to Taiwan last week. Her decision demonstrated to Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that the United States values its relationship with Taiwan, and that we are committed to a mutually beneficial economic and security partnership with our ally in the region.
A safe and prosperous Taiwan benefits the American economy and our national security. Taiwan is our ninth largest trading partner. Together, both nations are driving advances for American consumers, particularly regarding high-end electronics and the semiconductors that power them. Taiwan is a critical barrier in preventing the spread of Chinese imperialism responsible for stealing American innovation, subjugating citizens as slaves, siding with Vladimir Putin and other American adversaries, and openly threatening peace and security. I’ve long supported our friendship with Taiwan – from a visit to the island myself in 2016 to advocating for a State Partnership Program between our two countries.
Speaker Pelosi’s visit deserved unwavering support from President Biden. After all, when a member of Congress visits a critical U.S. partner, that’s business as usual. Neither Communist China, nor any other adversary can dictate American engagement with our allies and partners, let alone our foreign travel. The commander-in-chief’s role was to encourage the speaker’s visit and carry on; instead, he and his national security advisors panicked.
In a clear signal to Beijing, the Biden administration publicly demonstrated their disdain for Pelosi’s trip, citing concerns by military leaders. Their appeasement of China continued when the Pentagon delayed a routine missile test in response to increased Chinese naval activity around Taiwan. And that’s not the first time they’ve done so. In April of this year, the Biden Department of Defense delayed yet another scheduled missile test – in an apparent kowtow to Putin. The weakness emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave is astounding – and frankly, frightening.
Ruthless dictators, like Xi and Putin, respond to strength, not indecision. Today, China and Russia look at President Biden and see weakness and confusion. They remember the botched withdrawal in Afghanistan and our ongoing negotiations with a near-nuclear Iran. Further appeasement is only further encouragement for our adversaries.
In the days, weeks, and months ahead, Communist China’s encircling exercises, sanctions, and other retaliatory measures following the speaker’s visit need to be met with strong U.S. leadership to reinforce our rock-solid partnership with Taiwan. Now is not the time for a public disagreement over a routine visit to a partner nation.
Let me be clear: our adversaries have no authority over where we go, who we talk to, or when we test our military capabilities – and we must stop acting like they do. I rarely agree with Speaker Pelosi, but she’s absolutely right when she says, “we cannot stand by.”
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican, represents Iowa.