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Real Clear Politics | September 30, 2015

For years now, long before I became House majority leader, I have been passionate about foreign affairs because I believe that anyone who leads in Washington must appreciate the significance of America’s role in providing for global security and prosperity.

To understand the world better, the past few years I’ve visited Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Russia, and Georgia. I met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, visited our allies in the Arab Gulf, traveled to Tunisia and Iraq, met with President Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine, and visited our allies in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.

These trips have undoubtedly informed the way I approach geopolitics, but I also know that frequent flier miles don’t measure good policy. The particulars about regions, leaders, and adversaries are important, but successful foreign policy must rest on sound foundations that give us a framework to act. The principles that should guide American foreign policy are simple: the world is safer when America leads, only strength ensures peace and freedom, and America must stand with its allies and challenge its adversaries.

The world is safer when America leads.

There is an unfortunate trend in popular thinking that America can step back from the world, yet still preserve peace. The past six and a half years have proven that this view is not only naïve, but dangerous.

Wherever we look, the world is less safe and less secure because America is less engaged. Israel is isolated while Iran is emboldened. ISIS is on the rise. North Korea is issuing renewed threats against South Korea and America. Russia has invaded Ukraine, and China is expanding its sphere of influence. These malign powers have filled a vacuum in the absence of the United States and are pressing the advantage. Strong American leadership keeps the chaos at bay.

Only strength ensures peace and freedom.

Especially after President Obama’s red line in Syria was crossed with impunity, our enemies are increasingly certain that they can act against the United States’ interest without being held accountable. This lack of American resolve has only led to more chaos abroad that will be even harder to reverse in the years to come. Americans never seek war, but we do know that an essential way to preserve peace and prosperity is through the ability to project resounding force.

The neglect of this principle is evident in our response to Russia’s aggression in Europe. Rather than leading in a region of the world that has long symbolized America’s ability to stabilize and transform, the United States has withdrawn in both spirit and presence. In essence, we’ve rolled out the red carpet to Putin’s regional ambitions.

To push back, we need to start providing Ukrainian fighting forces with lethal aid, including Javelin missiles and advanced radars. We need to consider sanctions against Putin, the oligarchs who sustain his regime, and their cronies who help them skirt sanctions. And we need to lift our own oil export ban. If Russia wants to use energy as a weapon against our friends and allies, let’s use our resources to set them free.

America must stand with its allies and challenge its adversaries.

Standing with our allies and challenging our adversaries seems like an obvious policy, but this administration has unfortunately been doing the exact opposite.

Nowhere is this change more evident than in our relations with Israel and Iran. The truth is that our allies who know Iran the best distrust it the most, yet the Obama administration is moving forward with this fundamentally flawed nuclear deal anyway.

Iran will not renounce its funding of terrorists, it continues to call for the destruction of America and Israel, and it deceived the world about its nuclear infrastructure for more than a decade. So this attempt to trust our deceitful adversary while ignoring our friends will only lead to a richer and nuclear-armed Iran that will bring more terror, more war, and more destruction.

In approaching today’s world, I believe that if we adhere to and apply these principles to our engagement in the world, it will not only keep America safe, but also make the world a more peaceful and prosperous place. As we have seen time and again, there is no substitute for American leadership, and there is no time like the present to start providing it.