A wartime aid package for the Jewish state should be a congressional priority. That said, it’s no good pretending that the collapse of American security can continue to be ignored.

One of the standard tropes of American politics since World War II is the complaint that domestic concerns are being slighted while Washington funds either foreign aid or military commitments abroad. Since the United States became a global superpower, it’s a given that there will always be some people who will argue that any number of problems would be solved if only the money spent on foreign entanglements and adventures were sent back home.

Such reasoning is usually faulty. Even in periods of economic retrenchment, America is a wealthy enough country to protect its interests and its allies outside of its borders while dealing with its domestic obligations. If some problems aren’t being addressed at home, that is a failure of leadership in Washington, but it doesn’t mean that crises abroad should be neglected. Nor is it a given that even a shift to complete isolationism would turn the United States into a paradise rather than the complicated, messy yet glorious nation that exists.

But even if we dismiss the usual carping, that doesn’t validate every proposal for foreign spending. Nor does it mean that worries about an administration that has turned a blind eye to one of the greatest domestic crises in living memory while obsessing about a foreign war should be dismissed as isolationist or even xenophobic.

A standoff on foreign aid

Yet that is exactly what is going on in Washington as Congress returns from its holiday break faced with the same impasse over aid to Ukraine and Israel, as well as the need to address the crisis at America’s southern border. This is largely being reported as a partisan squabble between Democrats and Republicans with each of them blaming the other for the failure to pass an emergency aid bill to help Israel during its post-Oct. 7 war against Hamas or to vote more aid for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. But there’s more at work here than politics as usual in a dysfunctional Congress.

What we have now is a standoff in which three causes are being pitted against each other. On one (Israel), there is a broad consensus in Congress. On another (Ukraine), there is no consensus between the two parties. And the third (the border crisis), there isn’t even a consensus between Democrats and Republicans about whether it is a genuine crisis. That’s a formula for the kind of standoff that often leads to nothing getting passed or even threats of government shutdowns.

The current alignment in Congress is such that there are more than enough votes in both the GOP-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate to pass a “clean” aid bill to Israel. Such a measure would ensure that the Jewish state gets all the arms it needs to fight Hamas in Gaza, and deter a war with Hezbollah and its Iranian masters on Israel’s northern front.

But that’s not what the White House proposed in November. Instead, it sent Capitol Hill a proposal for a $106 billion foreign-aid package of which only $14.3 billion was devoted to helping Israel at a moment when it is fighting a war for its existence. It linked aid to Jerusalem to the cause that has been its priority for the last two years: supporting Ukraine against Russia. Ukraine, which received more than $150 billion in U.S. aid since it was invaded by Russia, would have gotten $61.4 in the administration’s package. Another $9 billion would have gone for what it called “humanitarian aid” for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. However, it is far from clear whether that will fall into the hands of Hamas or its allies or, as is the case with most of the assistance that goes there, make the problem worse rather than better. In addition to that, smaller amounts would have gone to countering China—currently, America’s most dangerous foreign foe. There was also supposed to be $14 billion for increased enforcement of immigration laws.

This was never going to pass both houses of Congress.

While a majority of Senate Republicans are as enthusiastic about spending on the war in Ukraine as their Democratic colleagues, House Republicans were having none of it. They think it isn’t reasonable for the United States to be spending so much on a war in Ukraine that is now hopelessly deadlocked. Russia is the aggressor in that conflict, and its President Vladimir Putin is a bloody tyrant. But Ukraine successfully defended its independence against the initial push to overrun it in 2022 when Moscow’s incompetent military proved that it was incapable of conquering Kyiv. The Ukrainians are now engaged in an equally futile quest—funded by Washington and its European allies—to get back the land Russia seized in 2014 in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea at a time when no one in the United States was interested in pursuing a proxy war against Moscow.

Contradictory arguments on Ukraine

Supporters of giving Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a blank check to go on fighting “as long as it takes” have two contradictory arguments that treat Moscow as weak enough to be defeated by its smaller neighbor, yet powerful enough to defeat the far larger and technologically superior NATO forces on its Western border. On the one hand, they think Ukraine can defeat Russia given enough American support. On the other, they claim that if Ukraine isn’t allowed to continue fighting to get back Crimea, then Russia—whose army has proved it couldn’t beat Kyiv’s forces—could conquer all of Europe.

Both premises are absurd. With all the money in the world, Ukraine can’t conquer Russia, and even if it did, the consequences of such an outcome are unknowable and as likely to be bad as good for the West. And contemporary Russia, as opposed to the Soviet Union of 40 years ago, can’t conquer Europe. Yet rather than push for peace to put an end to a futile, unwinnable war for both sides, many Americans seem to think unlimited spending on a forever conflict is a good idea and smear anyone who points out these facts as a Putin puppet.

Wherever you come down on the virtues of fighting Putin forever, tying that cause to the need to help Israel defeat Hamas is a cynical political tactic.

And as far as Democrats were concerned, the same could be said about Republican efforts to tie foreign-aid spending to a commitment to taking action to halt the massive flood of illegal immigrants pouring over America’s southern border since President Joe Biden took office. The crisis there is real and growing with more than 2 million illegal immigrants entering the United States last year alone and every sign that even more are now heading towards the border.

Republicans want to massively increase spending on border security and to complete the “wall” that former President Donald Trump promised but failed to build. More than that, they want to reform a broken system that is allowing economic migrants who flout the law about legal entry to come in via bogus asylum requests. The current situation, which has led to a population of illegal immigrants that may now number as high as 30 million, makes a mockery of the rule of law.

The crisis at the border