Skip to main content

Leading globally: Why America cannot keep the peace alone

By Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Pat Meehan, Mac Thornberry, Kay Granger, Kristi Noem, Aaron Schock, Paul Cook
updated 9:26 AM EDT, Wed May 7, 2014
North Korea is one of the many threats in the Asia region, say a group of Republican members of Congress.
North Korea is one of the many threats in the Asia region, say a group of Republican members of Congress.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A GOP delegation, fresh back from Asia trip, looks at U.S. standing in region
  • Asia's continued economic growth is not certain, these lawmakers say
  • They fear that China will use its economic and military power to coerce neighbors
  • They argue U.S. carrier fleet overdue for upgrades that administration hasn't budgeted

Editor's note: Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, is House majority leader. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, is chairman of the House Budget Committee. Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pennsylvania, is chairman of the House Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protections and Security Technologies Subcommittee. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, is vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, is chairwoman of the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-South Dakota, serves on the House Armed Services Committee. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Illinois, serves on the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Paul Cook, R-California, serves on the House Armed Services Committee. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.

(CNN) -- The United States is a Pacific power. Not only do millions of Americans live in states that border or are firmly rooted in the Pacific, more than 300,000 military service members and civilians who support them are stationed throughout the Pacific.

Countless American businesses and farmers also rely on access to this expanding market that has become an engine of global economic growth. In addition to reflecting our values, our foreign policy must reflect the fact that our prosperity and security is intimately linked with that of the Asia-Pacific.

Having just returned from this critical region, we heard directly from senior U.S. military commanders, along with key leaders in Japan and South Korea, about the desire for bolstering alliances that have been the cornerstone of stability in Asia. We also met senior Chinese officials in Beijing and U.S. business leaders in Shanghai about potential opportunities and challenges accompanying China's dramatic rise.

Asia's continued economic growth is not certain, and the region is threatened by a despotic and volatile North Korean regime armed with nuclear weapons. Many nations are concerned that China will use its growing economic and military power to coerce its neighbors.

A GOP congressional delegation aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington at a U.S. naval base in Japan.
A GOP congressional delegation aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington at a U.S. naval base in Japan.

Our allies and adversaries alike have seen how America failed to enforce its "red line" in Syria, and they are questioning whether we have the resolve to respond decisively to challenges in Asia.

Our partners are watching America's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. They fear allowing an assault on Ukraine's territorial integrity to stand will invite challenges to the established international order and fuel already tense maritime territorial disputes that threaten stability in Asia.

For decades, America has deterred threats to peace in Asia, and these partners worry America lacks the commitment and capabilities to back threats with action.

America cannot lead in the region if it is thousands of miles away. The indispensable symbol of American strength and leadership is the U.S. carrier fleet. Protecting key international shipping lanes -- vital to our own economic stability -- has long been a central mission of the U.S. Navy. But it is a mission that requires the forward basing of significant American naval resources, most importantly aircraft carriers such as the USS George Washington.

We were honored to board the George Washington at its forward port facility in Japan and visit its crew. This aircraft carrier is due for a midlife overhaul, but the administration's proposed budget doesn't include funding for this much-needed service, putting the future of it and the 11-carrier fleet in jeopardy.

Fareed Zakaria: U.S strategy in Asia

Our military commanders were clear about the need for the unique power projection capabilities provided by our aircraft carrier fleet. These commanders know our allies and adversaries alike are watching to see if America allows its military superiority to wither, and struggle every day to reassure their counterparts throughout the region.

White House: U.S. power hasn't declined
Ex-Obama adviser on strengthening Asia ties

America cannot keep the peace alone -- nor have we. Our allies have welcomed American military forces on their soil for decades, allowing the United States to project military power far from our shores and enhancing our security here at home. We are encouraged by the desire of these allies to contribute more to regional security, but much work is needed to help them bolster their defenses, encourage greater coordination among them and reassure our allies and adversaries of our enduring commitment to Asia.

The sheer economic dynamism of Asia is impressive, and more than half of the world's population lives there. It is important for America's economy that billions of Asian consumers are able to purchase our goods, services and agricultural products more easily. This is why we support the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is needed not only to facilitate greater trade across the Pacific but also to establish the economic rules of the road firmly for the 21st century. A trade agreement based on mutually beneficial terms will promote real economic growth and real jobs here at home.

We saw in China the stunning scope of economic growth that has lifted millions out of poverty and bolstered our own economic fortunes. But we were also struck by the absence of political and religious freedom in China.

While in Shanghai, we learned of the plight of a Catholic bishop under house arrest for refusing to be subservient to the Communist Party. And we visited a synagogue that by government edict is only open on High Holy Days, just a few times a year. We believe that with economic freedom there should also be political freedom, and we call upon the Chinese government to respect the universal human rights of its own citizens.

America has a bright future in Asia, but only if we seize it.

Our trip coincided with President Barack Obama's visit to the region. Both Republicans and Democrats delivered similar messages about the importance of our alliances in Asia and our commitment to the region. Now we must back our words with actions.

Unless the United States reinvests in its military, strengthens its alliances and displays strong leadership, we will see increased threats, greater risk of instability and economic turbulence in a region of pivotal importance to America's future.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:17 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
updated 10:05 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
updated 8:03 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
updated 8:12 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT