The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee warned that dangerous non-interventionism has taken root in segments of both the right and the left, saying he intends to focus on spreading an “articulate, dogged, national message” against isolationism when he leaves Congress at the end of this term.
Seven-term Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), a former FBI agent, announced at the end of March that he would leave office at the conclusion of the 113th Congress to focus on a broadcasting career.
Rogers began a summer speaking series this week speaking to the Business Executives for National Security in Washington, which gave the chairman its Eisenhower Award.
He noted that when Dwight D. Eisenhower first ran for president in 1952, he squared off against an isolationist Republican in a primary — Senator Robert Taft from Ohio, son of President William Howard Taft.
“Senator Taft opposed U.S. entry into World War II right up until we lost 2,000 Americans at Pearl Harbor. Taft opposed the creation of NATO because he thought it was too provocative towards the Soviet Union. And Taft opposed the Nuremburg Trials because he saw it as being fundamentally unfair and biased towards the Germans. Taft did not see Stalin’s Soviet Union as a threat to the United States in the 1950s,” Rogers said. “Thankfully, the wisdom of Republican primary voters saw in Eisenhower that a strong American national security policy brings the strong economy and stability we all seek.”
“Some of this sound familiar to what you are seeing in certain segments of the two political parties in America today?”
Rogers said he worries “that the lessons of engagement overseas are being lost after difficult challenges from Iraq and Afghanistan weigh on the mind.”
“A strange confluence occurs where the views of those who naively believe murderous dictators will behave differently if we behave differently merges with those who are frustrated with events overseas. This group simply believes if we mind our own business, the world’s problems will not follow us home, and others will have to sort it out for themselves,” he said.
“Unfortunately for humanity, history has shown that to be simply not true. That is not what happens in an interconnected world in the year 2014, or when you are the world’s lone superpower.”
The chairman stressed that “just as neglect from Germany’s aggressions in the 1930s did not serve American interests, recent history demonstrates what happens when we try to disengage or cede our leadership responsibilities to others.”
“In Egypt we were late to the game and not clear in our policy…We got a Muslim Brotherhood-led nation that pulled back counterterrorism operations in the Sinai peninsula, impacting Israel’s security and increasing threats to Western targets in Europe,” he said.
“In Syria we have tried to wage a war fought with fighter jets, Scud missiles and chemical weapons by the soulless, criminal Assad regime largely by issuing speeches from Washington, DC. The most powerful nation on earth has stood by and taken little action as more than 150,000 people have been slaughtered, families are hit indiscriminately with Scud missiles, and even as there are reports of a school being hit with a barrel bomb crudely configured with toxic chlorine gas. That attack killed 25 kids while they were learning at their desks. I believe that America’s lack of resolve in the face of this inhuman cruelty in Syria is a stain on our moral character that may take decades to wash off and will embolden dictators like Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin and the mullahs in Tehran.”
Rogers said that after the conflict is Syria is over, “the jihadists training in Syria today will look to a new target. And their favorite target is always the U.S. or Western interests.”
He called the lack of American leadership in responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “most troublesome.”
Rogers went to Ukraine to meet with military and intelligence officials after “the Russians invaded, occupied and then stole Crimea from their neighbor.”
“They weren’t asking for tanks or planes to fight the Russian army. They were asking for some basic intelligence and for food. After weeks, the most powerful military of the most powerful nation on earth had not been able to deliver the Ukrainians meals ready to eat (MREs). And while we were there, the White House told our American diplomats to stop asking for intelligence sharing as it wasn’t going to be approved. Yet another nation was left disappointed in the promise of America,” he said.
“Later, we met with a new Ukrainian government minister who weeks earlier was protesting in the streets of Kiev against the corruption of the Yanukovych government. He was kidnapped by Russians, had his ear cut off and was crucified against the wall until he agreed to record a video saying the protests in Kiev were sponsored by the Americans. When we met him, he teared up and apologized to us for recording the video. I was embarrassed as he was apologizing to us,” Rogers added.
“This is the Russia we are dealing with today. This is how KGB-trained Vladimir Putin and his thugs in power operate. It doesn’t matter if we wish the world was not this way. It is. And to make foreign policy based on a world that doesn’t exist is dangerous.”
Rogers said it’s critical to “work against an American withdrawal from the world and against an isolationism that has never served us well.”
“That Ukrainian minister who was protesting in the streets of Kiev, getting beaten and shot at by Russian-sponsored goons was looking out to the distance for any signs of that shining city on a hill, any signs of real help from the United States. Unfortunately, he has barely seen a flicker,” he said, adding that he plans to use his new broadcasting platform “to talk about the importance of national security to normal Americans in their cars, their kitchens, and while they are at work, every single day.”
“I believe national leadership has been missing on this issue for years now and my intention is to try to do something about it. I believe to my core that an articulate, dogged, national message against the temptations of isolationism is essential to the future prosperity of the United States of America.”