“American leadership is what holds the world together, and if we fail to lead, the cost and threats to the United States will only grow,” testified former U.S. Central Command commander and current Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.

Merritt Hamilton Allen Commentary
Merritt Hamilton Allen Commentary

According to Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre, Austin’s remarks were well received by both parties as he and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken argued for passage of the White House’s proposed $105 billion supplemental budget request for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and border security.

This sounds right. This sounds correct.

But all is not as it should be.

Representative Mike Johnson, who has been Speaker of the House for five minutes, is putting forward a bill that only funds Israel, and covers the cost by pulling funding from the IRS.

Meanwhile, while we have two carrier strike groups in the Eastern Mediterranean – that’s 15,000 Sailors, up to 150 aircraft, up to a dozen ships and submarines – we have no chief of naval operations, the head of the U.S. Navy. We also have no commander of the Fifth Fleet, who is the operational commander of naval forces in the Mideast region. Due to a heart attack on Sunday, we temporarily don’t have a four-star general in charge of the Marine Corps, because there is no deputy commandant of the Marine Corps.

As we are sending 300 more ground troops to the Central Command area of responsibility this week, Republican Tommy Tuberville retains his 9-month-long hold on military promotions requiring Senate approval. Nearly 300 general and admiral promotions are in limbo, keeping key command positions vacant as the world grows more turbulent.

Maybe you don’t follow this closely. Russia does. China does. Iran does. Our enemies see a divided America. They see the world’s greatest superpower unable to pass key foreign aid packages or even fill key military command slots.

America looks irresolute to the world. Because a few Republicans refuse to put their country first.

There are a few distressing processes at work here. First, the chaos in the House appears to be back in full throttle. The rule the previous Speaker allowed in order to attain the office – that any single member could call for a motion to vacate the Speaker’s office – remains. So, Johnson is just as hamstrung by the fringe of his caucus as Kevin McCarthy was.

Getting rid of that rule would require Democratic support. Sadly, that opportunity was probably squandered by McCarthy. After successfully building a bipartisan coalition to get a temporary spending bill passed in September, McCarthy turned on his Democratic colleagues and blamed them in the press for impeding the effort, when in fact they saved the endeavor. With that, the Democrats are going to let the Republicans fracture and fail and use that against the GOP to work to retake the House in 2024. That’s a shame.

Johnson’s Israel bill probably won’t get out of the House. It will therefore fall on the Senate to take up the combined aid package which does have supermajority support. But the Senate also will have to take the time to start voting on military promotions one by one to bypass Tuberville’s tantrum over the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy.

And that’s just national security. Eight years ago, the idea of trade protectionism was something only embraced by certain left-wing politicians and Donald Trump. Today, there is growing enthusiasm in the Republican Party to curtail free trade, which limits economic growth at a time when we need it most. With federal debt at an all-time high as a percentage of GDP, now is not the time to shrink the denominator.

One of the greatest failures of both major parties in the last three decades is the lack of a coherent immigration plan from either of them. Despite the gloomy picture I have painted in this column, the United States remains a beacon for immigrants the world over. We can’t take everyone who wants to come (which up until this summer seemed to be the Biden policy). We shouldn’t keep everyone out (which seems to be the Trump policy).

The pro-isolationist, pro-nativist, andpro-protectionist Republicans do not comprise the entire party, despite what my Democratic friends assure me to the contrary.But I would like to offer an insight to this “new right”: by reducing the breadth of America’s lens, we make her smaller in every way and undermine the principles of her founders while growing government oversight in an untenable manner. This is not freedom or liberty. When we close off an avenue of our country’s greatness, we deny her exceptionalism.

Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive and former Navy officer. She appeared regularly as a panelist on NM PBS and is a frequent guest on News Radio KKOB. A Republican, she lives amicably with her Democratic husband north of I-40 where they run one head of dog, and two of cat. She can be reached at news.ind.merritt@gmail.com.

Merritt Hamilton Allen
Merritt Hamilton Allen