Rep. Ed Royce on ISIS and US Foreign Policy

Rep. Ed Royce addressing the Council and high school students attending through our education program

The US faces a key choice in the face of the barbaric advances of ISIS extremism in the Middle East - wait it out, or assemble an international coalition to confront it, according to Representative Ed Royce, a Republican from California’s 39th District. Royce, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, left little doubt about his views - which he said seemed to be prevailing, given the bombardment of ISIS in Syria on Monday night.

Speaking to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council on Tuesday, he evoked Winston Churchill, who was an anti-communist, but who famously said when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons” in relation to his policy toward Stalin. Very soon thereafter, the British began sending arms to help the Soviet Union. “The question today is, will we attempt to rally an international coalition - like Churchill in World War II - or will we wait it out?”

Royce acknowledged that some of the countries and militias that we will have to work with may not be paragons of democracy, “but the question is not ‘who are your allies?’ - the question is ‘who is trying to kill you?’” Afterwards, he said, “when the smoke clears, we have to make certain we leave a good environment where the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites can co-exist peacefully.” But for now, he says, the main lesson of Counterterrorism 101 is “not to give terrorists safe haven. They are on the march now and fighting so-called 'apostates' from any religion – Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, Yazidis. Anyone who does not agree with their jihadi view is on the chopping block… I would say at this point they need to be defeated.” To do that, Royce said, the US should urgently send the anti-ISIS forces weapons, while assembling a local coalition of Arab forces (“to prevent blowback”) who can provide boots on the ground, if necessary. “With the Kurds and the Arabs, you could muster enough infantry - I don’t know why you would put the 82nd Airborne into that cauldron.” Royce also said the US needs to build a broader consortium of international support, in Asia and Europe – “Why? Because the foreign fighters that are going to ISIS are coming from all over the world. The choice is to wait until they come back to their home countries and start carrying out attacks there, or to hit their ammunition dumps and training camps now in Syria.”

On Ukraine and Russia, Royce said that on a recent visit to eastern Ukraine it became clear to him that the majority there do not want to become part of Russia. There was initial overreach by the new Ukrainian government in Kiev after the fall of the previous President, Viktor Yanukovych in February of this year. Prime Minister Yatsenyuk told Royce that it had been a “stupid move” initially to try to impose the Ukrainian language on Russian-speakers in the East, and made them very suspicious of the government in Kiev. But as soon as Russian troops started crossing the border to get involved in the fighting, the locals turned against them. “Most want the Russians out - Russia is a declining power . . . The question is, with the ceasefire in place, can we wind this down now?”>

Asked about a potential threat to the US from China - both from its armed forces and its cyber warfare, Royce said that China’s interests have always been regional, not global - “it is not like the Third Reich, seeking world domination...” China, he said, has interests in Asia. But the big question, from his perspective, when dealing with China, is to make certain China follows international law. “The theft of intellectual property is a big problem - the US needs to lead with other countries that share this concern.”

After answering questions from the podium for over half an hour, Royce stayed in the dining room answering further questions from guests for the same amount of time after the dinner was over: clearly with the world in such a tumultuous state, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has a lot of issues on his plate.

You can view the event here: