When I moved to Washington in the late 1980s to begin a 30-year career in the U.S. government, it was a different world.
North Korea did not have a nuclear weapon, and Iran had no plan to acquire one. India and Pakistan had not yet conducted nuclear tests. The Soviet Union was in the midst of a collapse, which severely crippled the evil empire’s capacity for military aggression and other nefarious attacks across the globe.
It would be decades before the Pentagon would submit a report identifying climate change posed an “immediate risk” to national security. Terrorism was localized for the most part in the Middle East and North Africa, not the metastasized global network of threats it is today. Al Qaeda did not even exist.
And China was, to use a phrase popular in our current lexicon, an “over-the-horizon” national security threat.
The world back then was arguably a far less dangerous place. We were still benefiting from a bipartisan consensus forged during the Cold War on containing and countering Soviet communism. Reaching across the aisle to collaborate on national security policy was more straightforward and politically painless for our elected representatives.
As Michigan Republican Sen. Arthur Vandenberg said back in 1947, politics “stopped at the water’s edge.”
Mitigating, preempting and — when possible — eliminating threats to our national security require our politicians to collaborate on delivering the most effective policy measures.
And today, the stakes could not be higher. The U.S. faces a myriad of complex, wickedly challenging threats to our national security. The intelligence community, where I spent my career, is responsible for gathering information on these threats “left of boom” so that they can be thwarted before visiting our shores.
Unfortunately, modern American politics is so deeply polarized that not even the most significant national security threats such as Iran, Russia, North Korea, China and transnational terrorist groups can escape collateral damage from partisan politics.
Our enemies, most especially but certainly not limited to China and Russia, are ruthlessly focused on pouring gasoline on the partisan fires burning in Washington. Vandenberg rightly believed U.S. leaders should present a united front to other countries despite our domestic political differences. Hence, we avoid the self-inflicted wounds that only create more vulnerable attack targets for our adversaries.
The denouement of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has prompted many on both sides of the aisle to debate America’s place in the world, especially the extent to which we should continue to pursue a robust global economic and military presence.
There is no better place for leaving politics behind than China, which is stealing the West’s intellectual property; mounting full-throttled espionage operations against the U.S. and our allies; expanding its military throw-weight from Asia to Africa and the Middle East; brazenly violating human rights; and emitting more greenhouse gases than any other nation.
And true to the tradition of his bygone Soviet fellow travelers, Chinese President Xi Jinping propagates a mountain of lies — most infamously on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic — to prop up his corrupt regime.
If there is one thing our fractured political system needs, it’s a national consensus on dealing with a ruthlessly mercantilist and militarily ambitious China.
Democrats and Republicans should work together on enhancing our defenses both geographically and in cyberspace and working with our allies, especially in Asia, where China is threatening Taiwan’s sovereignty. We should all be engaged in the task of challenging China’s “wolf warrior” propaganda machine by shining the brightest spotlight on Beijing’s repressive policies.
The model for bipartisan collaboration can be found from 2011-15, when Republican former Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan chaired the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and Maryland Rep. Charles “Dutch” Ruppersberger III was the panel’s ranking Democrat. Never brandishing any predisposed ideological bias when it came to national security, Mr. Rogers and Mr. Ruppersberger embodied Vandenberg’s sacred principle of bipartisanship in their work.
We should not expect heated partisan discord to abate in 2022, especially with the upcoming midterm elections. But our elected leaders should be held accountable to find some safe space on national security for the sake of our country’s future.
Here’s a new year’s wish for 2022: that our elected leaders recognize once again that what brings us together far outweighs what divides us, especially when it comes to confronting, defending and deterring China’s global challenge to our national security.
• Daniel N. Hoffman is a retired clandestine services officer and former chief of station with the Central Intelligence Agency. His combined 30 years of government service included high-level overseas and domestic positions at the CIA. He has been a Fox News contributor since May 2018. Follow him on Twitter @DanielHoffmanDC.
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