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Today, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy gave a speech to the Hay Initiative offering his vision for a strong foreign policy and specific responses to the challenges America faces today.

The speech as prepared is below, or watch it online here.

Thank you everyone.

There are two American leaders in particular that I look to, and I have portraits of them in my office. Presidents Reagan and Lincoln.

 When I see those portraits I like to think about the advice they would give us today:

1)    Believe in American exceptionalism

America is an idea that free people can govern themselves, that the power to govern is derived by the consent of the governed, and that we have certain inalienable rights. America is different from the rest of the world. We are, as Lincoln said, the last best hope on earth.  

2)    Don’t blame others for your problems

We’ve had years of blaming Bush, but Lincoln never blamed Buchannan. It’s time to look forward and solve the problems instead of blaming the past.

3)    Peace without freedom is meaningless

Carter and Obama may have won the peace prize but who made the world more free? It was Reagan. 

4)    Speak the truth about our enemies and ourselves

We can’t be afraid to call the enemy what it is: radical Islamic terrorism. But we also can’t be afraid to say the truth about America: that we are exceptional, that we are a force for good in the world. As Reagan said at the Royal Institute of National Affairs in London, “when free peoples cease telling the truth about and to their adversaries, they cease telling the truth to themselves. In matters of state, unless the truth be spoken, it ceases to exist.”

5)    Don’t put off tough decisions for future generations. President Obama is just waiting to dump a multitude of problems on the next president. 

Do you remember – not so long ago — when America stood with its allies and against its enemies? When America’s strength led to peace and prosperity not just here but around the world?  When America was seen as the world’s shining light of freedom, of liberty, and justice?

That’s the America I grew up in, and that’s the America I want for my children and their children.   

Before I ever became Majority Leader, I had a passion for world affairs, because I believe that anyone who wants to lead in Washington must commit to America’s leadership among the community of nations, and embrace America’s role and responsibility in preserving safety and security, peace and prosperity, not just within our borders — but beyond.

In the past few years alone, I’ve visited Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Russia, and Georgia. I met with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel, visited our allies in the Arab Gulf, travelled to Tunisia and Iraq, met with President Poroshenko in Ukraine, and visited our allies in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.

But understanding the world—and, more importantly, the wisdom to act when needed, is not measured in frequent flier miles or endless meetings. 

Effective foreign policy is not about effort.  It’s measured by success. 

And success in foreign policy, just like domestic policy, must be governed by sound, unshakable principles.  Because without a clearly stated framework for action, our enemies will be emboldened by our uncertainty and our allies paralyzed by indecision. 

Does that sound familiar?  It’s happening right now. 

So here is the first and most important principle of American foreign policy: … the world is a safer place when America leads. 

In 2008, Candidate Obama crisscrossed Europe and spoke before millions. He traveled to places like Berlin to speak to fawning crowds with the goal of improving our reputation. But what he has yet to learn in office is that respect is not bestowed upon those who ask for it, but granted only to those who earn it.

And when it comes to dictators, tyrants, and terrorists, strength and the threat of force is the only language they understand. 

We have lost the respect of allies and adversaries alike. We have isolated Israel, while emboldening nations like Iran.  We let North Korea threaten South Korea, Russia encroach on Ukraine, and now China is asserting a greater sphere of influence.  

Wherever we look, the world is less safe and less secure because America is less engaged.    

The America we need and deserve is strong, respected, appreciated, and feared.  A country where the noble cause of freedom inspires millions of people across the world to stand up, speak out, and fight tyranny and injustice, in the pursuit of individual liberty and human rights.

That leads to the second principal that must govern American foreign policy: strength and resolve bring peace and security.

The absence of leadership over the past six years has had horrific consequences all across the globe, and it is getting worse day by day. Our enemies, be they rogue nations or terrorist groups, see us talk about red lines not to be crossed, then defiantly challenge us by crossing them.  Sadly, all too often, America makes bold claims followed by a weak response, or no response at all. And as a result, our enemies get stronger, and America gets weaker.

Today our Army is at its lowest numbers since 1940. Our troop readiness is severely compromised. Our active soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are being neglected after they bravely fought in two wars, and those who return home are being disrespected by a VA that can’t keep its simple promise to heal our heroes when they need it most.

But there is no weakness in these men and women, these heroes who fought to the death in Ramadi, who bombed the caves of Tora Bora, who secured a fragile peace in Iraq with the precious sacrifice of their blood.

No, the weakness lies not with our enlisted men and women, or our officers leading them, but with their commander-in-chief. 

The Reagan doctrine worked because the Soviets knew there was not an inch of soil we would concede to the spread of communism, or a dollar we wouldn’t spend to spread freedom. Peace comes through strength. Not through retreat.

Take Europe and our response to Russia’s aggression.  Rather than leading in a region of the world that has long symbolized America’s ability to stabilize and transform, the U.S. has withdrawn in both spirit and presence.

The U.S. military presence has dropped from more than 300,000 troops to around 60,000.  We’ve rolled out the red carpet to Putin’s regional ambitions. 

Russia’s military modernization and its reliance on hybrid warfare are a direct threat to NATO and the solidarity of our alliance, yet efforts to contain and roll back Russian aggression have failed.

This administration has seesawed from an ill-advised courtship of Putin’s Russia to scrambling to respond to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and a ground war in eastern Ukraine that continues to this day, virtually unacknowledged by the White House. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses the greatest challenge to European security and stability since World War II.

My answer?  Stop letting Putin set the agenda.  Stop turning a blind eye to Russian aggression.  It is time for America to step up, not back down, and that starts with providing Ukrainian fighting forces lethal aid.

We signed the Budapest Memorandum in 1994 in which Ukraine agreed to relinquish its nuclear weapons inherited from the Soviet Union in exchange for guarantees from the U.S., U. K., and Russia to preserve and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

It is bad enough that Russia has violated this Memorandum: we should live up to it.

The Obama Administration has argued that providing defense weapons will only encourage additional Russian aggression. I disagree. It is weakness that fuels Russian aggression, not western actions.

The President’s response to Putin’s aggression should not be to sit down and talk, but to consider serious sanctions that target him, the oligarchs who sustain his reign, and their cronies that help them avoid sanctions. 

We should be making it more difficult for the major Russian energy company Gazprom to do business. Gazprom is an extension of the Russian military arsenal. It fuels Putin’s belligerent ambitions to blackmail our allies. Threats to cut off gas to Ukraine and others across Europe should not be mistaken as anything but an act of hostility. It’s time to make it much tougher for them to do their dirty business. 

We must use American energy to help our allies.  It defies belief that the president would allow the ban on Iranian oil exports to be lifted and also stand by as Russia blackmails an entire continent, all the while keeping in place the ban on the American export of crude oil. If Russia wants to use energy as a weapon against our friends and allies, let’s use our energy resources to set them free.

Let’s sell American oil and gas wherever we find an ally in need. Let’s do what I would consider my third principle for foreign policy: start standing with our friends again, and start challenging our adversaries.

We must always stand by the side of those who are on our side. We should support those who support freedom and stability, and oppose those who would enslave their own people. We can inspire billions of people across the globe that one day, by standing with America, they too, can live in a free, peaceful society. 

No two countries on Earth exemplify this principle more than our relationship with Israel and how we confront Iran. I recently joined three-dozen members of Congress on a trip to Israel, our strongest, closest ally in the region. There, we listened to people from every political perspective, from ordinary citizens to the most senior decision-makers. In all these conversations, we were left with one lasting impression: The people who know Iran the best trust it the least.   

Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt.  They know a nuclear Iran is a recipe for world chaos. Many may have been coerced into public statements of lukewarm support, but they know full-well the dangerous consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran, and they’ve told us behind closed doors that the Iranian deal is the worst decision America could make.  

This is the same country that has funded terrorists for a generation. The same country that has repeatedly called America “the Great Satan.” The same country that deceived the world about its nuclear infrastructure for more than a decade.

Iran’s neighbors know what President Obama once said: that no deal is better than a bad deal, and that a better approach was even tougher sanctions, not the elimination of them. 

For these reasons and more, I stand with a majority of the American people and oppose the nuclear deal with Iran.  Why?  Because this agreement fails to achieve what we all want: safety, security, and stability in the Middle East, and across the world. Instead, a nuclear-armed Iran will bring more terror, more war, and more destruction.  The people of the Middle East deserve better.  And so do the American people.

The evidence of Iranian intentions is overwhelming, from their funding of Hezbollah, to the use of the Quds Force to actively support Shia Houthi rebels after staging a coup against Yemen’s President.

On an almost weekly basis, we learn of planned attacks by Iranian-backed terror cells operating in a neighboring country. It is unconscionable that the President’s nuclear deal with Iran does nothing to restrain Iranian-backed terror. 

To the contrary, it enhances it.  Iran spends up to $16 billion per year, a conservative estimate, backing its proxies. It’s hard to imagine how much damage they will be able to do with as much as $150 billion in immediate sanctions relief after this deal, an amount that is as much or maybe even more than the most recent bailout for Greece. 

Iran’s increased funding for terrorism is the greatest fear I hear from our allies in the region as a direct result of the humiliating concessions made by President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry.

Looking ahead, the best path forward to safety, security, and stability in the Middle East and around the world is to once again take control of our destiny.  The global sanctions that kept Iran at bay and brought them to the negotiating table was working, so let’s do what works.  

Because the President chose not to submit this agreement as a Treaty, the next President is not bound by it.  The next president can instead take a whole new approach, one based on a position of strength, not endless concessions.

Sanctions relief should only be granted when nations abandon a coordinated campaign of violence and terrorism. You don’t induce your enemies into good behavior, you make it too painful to continue their bad behavior. 

Iran is not the only challenge we face in the Middle East.  Iraq is a country where Americans have fought and died to bring stability and protect its security. I would venture to guess that all 15 candidates for president on the Republican side have been asked if they would have gone to war if they knew then what we know now.

But here’s a question I have yet to hear a Democratic candidate asked: if you knew our total, unconditional withdrawal from Iraq would lead to the creation and expansion of ISIS, to the mass executions of moderate Muslims, to the slaughter of Coptic Christians, to Syrian children washing ashore as they fled a butcher like Assad: would you still support the president’s complete withdrawal from Iraq? Would you still defend drawing red lines that get crossed without consequences? Would you support a policy that has given ISIS a caliphate approximately the size of Great Britain? Would you give up cities like Ramadi, where our Marines gave their last measure of devotion, so the president could keep a campaign promise?

We need an entirely new policy in Iraq and Syria.

The Iraqi Army is no longer up to the task, and the coalition air war against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria have failed to reverse ISIS’s gains.

The U.S. needs to lead again, and re-engage. Our goals in Iraq should be: defeat ISIS, marginalize Iranian influence and Iranian militias, and help to foster a system of political inclusiveness rather than sectarian division. 

The U.S. and our allies should also consider putting limited numbers of U.S. Special Forces personnel on the ground and outside the wire to help call in truly effective airstrikes and provide more effective support to the Iraqi Army, Sunni, and Kurdish units directly engaged in the fight.

Many combat missions flown over Iraq come back without dropping any bombs. This is because we have a limited intelligence picture and we have tied the hands of our commanders and micromanaged from the White House with overly-restrictive rules of engagement.

When we ask our brave men and women to risk their lives every day, we must fight to win and empower them to fight and win.

In addition to real hard power steps, we can do more on the soft power side. Unlike during the surge in Iraq when Petraeus and Crocker had an effective political strategy to match our military strategy, no such effort exists today. Working with Iraqi leaders on an inclusive, non-sectarian governance plan is essential to move forward.

In nearby Syria, the situation is even more bleak. The decision to back down to Assad caused insurmountable harm to America’s credibility abroad. But it didn’t end there. This Administration engaged the Russians (one of Assad’s top supporters and accomplices) to broker an agreement on the destruction of Assad’s chemical stockpiles.

Predictably, Assad continues to use chemical weapons against his own people to this very day. And Russia, Russia is rapidly increasing support for Assad including deploying military personnel, tanks, and fighter jets. When Obama backed-down, Russia, Iran, and Assad doubled-down.

The growing nexus in Syria among Russia, Iran, and Assad has all but ensured the failure of this Administration’s plan to coax Assad from power. Already the conflict created the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Roughly half of Syria’s population has been displaced, including over 4 million who have fled to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Europe. Heartbreaking images of Aylan Kurdi, a drowned 3-year old boy lying face down on a Turkish beach, brought this reality home to all of us. Sadly, the situation only appears to be getting worse.

Finally, I think we should work with our allies to establish a no-fly zone over northern Syria. The “safe zone” this would create could stem the flow of refugees and allow sanctuary for rebooted Syrian rebels to take on ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliated groups and prevent Assad’s attacks on his own people.

Whether it is in the form of ISIS, or Al Qaeda, or other radical Islamic movements, one thing is clear: politically correct speech will not defeat this enemy.

We must wage this war against radical Islam as if our life depended on it. Because it does 

They want to kill western values by bringing bloodshed to western cities. Paris, London, New York, Washington, they have all seen the face of terror funded by radical Islam.

Let me be clear: this is not the view of the great majority of Muslims here and abroad. American Muslims make this a better country and the same is true of millions of Muslims across the globe. They reject this extremism as much as we do. But a small percentage of well-funded, Islamic fanatics hate those moderate Muslims as much as they hate Christians and Jews. And they stop at nothing to rid the world of all three.

You know, the world today reminds me a lot of 1979. In 1979, the world seemed to be falling apart in ways that seem all too familiar.

The Soviets had invaded Afghanistan, which has parallels to the recent Russian aggression in Crimea and Ukraine.

Islamic fanatics seized American hostages in Iran while today Iran holds 4 American hostages, not to mention the kidnappings and murders by ISIS.

In 1979 our ambassador in Afghanistan was murdered. That seems like a precursor to the siege of our consulate in Libya and the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans.

Then and now, chaos and conflict were the direct result of weak American leadership. But it only took ten years to go from a world in chaos to the freeing of our hostages, the tumbling of the Berlin Wall, the liberating of the Eastern bloc, and two years later the crumbling of Soviet Communism.

And it all happened because of American leadership and American resolve, guided by 3 fundamental principles that must see us forward: that the world is safer when America leads, that strength and resolve are the best recipe for peace and security, and that America stands with its allies, and challenges its adversaries.

There is no substitute for American leadership. And there is no time like the present to start providing it.

The fate of the world is in our hands. So let us do what must be done, so that someday we can tell our children we protected freedom when it was threatened most. That we stood up to tyrants and terrorists. That we stood with the oppressed and the freedom-loving. That we became the America the world has counted on so many times before, once again. You, and your children, deserve nothing less.

Thank you.