In 1993, Iraqi dictator Sadden Hussein rejected arms inspections, and Kuwait disrupted a plot to assassinate former U.S. President George H.W. Bush.
North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and proceeded to proliferate.
Mogadishu melted down, with disastrous consequences for U.S. troops in Somalia.
By year’s end, one thing was clear: The much ballyhooed post-Cold War “Pax Americana” was just a pipe dream.
That same year, a freshman Republican congressman joined the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. California’s Ed Royce knew the future would hold many foreign challenges for America. He wanted to be the center of the coming foreign policy storm.
Ten years on, Royce has his wish. He now wields the gavel as chairman of the committee.
For a man whose professional background lay in small business, foreign affairs might seem an odd preoccupation. But Royce sees foreign relations as being a matter of “people” as much as it is about great-power diplomacy.
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What animates his interest is how world affairs affect the lives of ordinary Americans. His father practiced foreign policy at the end of a gun, serving with Patton’s Third Army during World War II.
Royce sees carrying forward the work of “the greatest generation” as a key responsibility of his committee.
In his brief tenure as committee chair, Royce has set some clear guidelines for discerning whether that responsibility is being met.
First, he insists that America know which countries are friends and which are enemies — and that they be treated accordingly.
One beneficiary of this standard has been Taiwan. Just prior to becoming chairman, Royce led the successful charge to approve Taiwan’s entry into the visa waiver program — providing economic and security benefits to both nations.
More recently, Royce sponsored legislation insisting that Taiwan be invited to join this year’s assembly of International Civil Aviation Organizations. Taiwan had been unjustly shut out of that organization for more than 40 years.
Second, Royce has put human rights back on the congressional agenda. Conservatives ought to be the natural champion for making human rights a pillar of American foreign policy.
Not in the vein of imposing our values, but in looking after our own interests and living up to the obligations of an exceptional nation to stand tall for the cause of freedom.
“History is full of examples of regimes that were oppressive at home and aggressive abroad,” Royce argues. Ignoring how badly states treat their own people is not in America’s self-interest.
And third, on security, Royce has kept the spotlight on real threats, like North Korea's belligerence toward its neighbors. And he's introduced serious legislation like the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act to do something about it.
Unlike some of his predecessors, Royce eschews the notion of using foreign policy as an instrument to foster political agendas, crony capitalism or vacuous “feel good” exercises in made-for-TV “statesmanship.”
No foreign policy embodies all these ills more than U.S. foreign food aid, and no member of Congress has pressed more than Royce to change that policy.
“Proposals to feed more desperate people faster, and at a lower cost to taxpayers, are simply common sense,” he argues.
Royce has proven more than willing to roll up his sleeves and challenge the U.S. growers and shippers who, because of the way food aid is currently structured, benefit far more from the program than the people the aid is supposed to help.
“To make matters worse,” he adds, the current structure of food aid programs “often destroys agricultural markets in the countries we are trying to help, while increasing the aid dependency we want to end.”
Among U.S. conservatives, Royce stands as a model of the modern major foreign policy leader.
- James Jay Carafano is vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Heritage Foundation.
Originally appeared in the Washington Examiner