Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday denounced those who advocate "an American retreat from responsibility" and said sustained US leadership is needed to help keep the world as safe, free, and prosperous as possible. The US must reject calls to turn away from global interests and become more isolationist, he told an audience of lawmakers, corporate and defense leaders and government officials in California. Those who "try to pull up the drawbridge," he said, undermine the security that has led to decades of prosperity, the AP reports. Austin made the remarks in a speech at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley.
Austin defended US support of Israel in its war against Hamas and of Ukraine in its fight against Russia's invasion. He said "the world will only become more dangerous if tyrants and terrorists believe that they can get away with wholesale aggression and mass slaughter." While there, Austin met privately with top lawmakers on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. His message of rejecting isolationism appeared directed at lawmakers opposed to spending on overseas wars and supportive of Donald Trump's "America First" ideology. "You'll hear some people try to brand an American retreat from responsibility as bold new leadership," Austin said. "Make no mistake: It is not bold. It is not new. And it is not leadership."
Congress has not approved any new money for the wars in Ukraine and Israel and has managed to pass only a short-term budget bill, which runs out early next year, per the AP. Austin opened his speech with a plea to lawmakers in the crowd to pass both the budget and the supplemental funding for the wars. In addition, Austin underscored the Biden administration's insistence that Israel do more to protect civilians in Gaza during its offensive. While any country has a duty to respond to an attack like the Oct. 7 assault by Hamas on Israel, Austin said the lesson is that "you can only win in urban warfare by protecting civilians." Austin said that if civilians are driven into the arms of the enemy by violence, it becomes a strategic defeat.
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