News & Insights


As originally appeared in The Hill.

By: Jeremy Bash, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR, The Hill – 04/25/24 8:00 AM ET

In the past two weeks, President Biden and his national security team have notched several critical victories once thought improbable by pundits.

First, nearly two weeks ago, the United States, acting in concert with allies from the United Kingdom, France, Jordan and Israel, resoundingly defeated Iran in the largest air defense battle of the 21st century. Using American warships, fighters and missile defense systems, the U.S. Defense Department, led by Secretary Lloyd Austin, worked with Israel and the coalition to take out 320 cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and drones launched by Iran against Israel. Not a single Iranian munition had any military impact.

Second, Biden prevailed on our ally Israel to “take the win” and launch a carefully calibrated response, not a full-scale barrage. On Friday, April 19, Israel did just that, sending a small number of air-to-ground missiles into the heart of Iran, penetrating their air defenses and knocking out a key radar installation that protects the nuclear facility of Natanz. The message was unmistakable: We can take out your defenses, and the next one will take out your nuclear program. President Biden helped Israel “speak softly and carry a big stick,” with key assurances that the U.S. will continue to have Israel’s back.

Overseas, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his G7 counterparts and continued to strengthen one of the most significant alliances in the world — the economic block of democracies that stand against China’s rising efforts to challenge the West on economics and technology. While the news tends to focus on the crisis of the day, the Biden team is staying focused on the largest long-term national security challenge facing the United States: managing competition with the PRC by building stronger alliances, investing in domestic technologies, and helping American technology in an age of AI set the global standard.

On the home front, the Biden team saw major victories on Capitol Hill in the realm of national security.

First, last Saturday night, the Senate passed a reauthorization of the law that allows the U.S. intelligence community to collect the communications of foreigners overseas when their communications happen to transit the United States. Some on the far right and far left wanted the government to apply for an individualized warrant every time the government collects information on a foreign terrorist, an overseas cyberhacker, a spy or a drug lord. That would have ground the intelligence community to a halt and left America vulnerable. The Biden administration worked for months to make important changes to the law, protecting privacy while ensuring that the capability remained effective. The effort paid off, and the bill passed.

Second, with the president signing a vital $95 billion emergency foreign aid package Wednesday that includes $61 billion in U.S. military assistance for Ukraine, there appears to be renewed momentum around helping President Volodymyr Zelensky counter the Russia threat. For months, House Republicans were blocking efforts to bring this legislation, which has support from large bipartisan majorities in both chambers, to the floor. Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), working with Democrats (for a change), survived efforts to topple his Speakership, bringing key bills out of the Rules Committee. Biden has made this aid a signature foreign policy priority, forcefully making the case that if we do not stand up for the defense of democracies, autocrats will leverage this inaction to deal a severe blow to our interests and our values.

These victories were months (in some cases, years) in the making. The capabilities used to defend Israel were the product of decades of investment by the defense industry. The intelligence authorities that were reauthorized were first written 20 years ago during the George W. Bush administration. The Biden national security team did not achieve these alone — they were done in conjunction with career professionals at the Department of Defense, the State Department, the intelligence community, from allies and partners and from the private sector, as well as members of Congress from both parties.

What is remarkable is how well President Biden and his team, led by national security adviser Jake Sullivan and deputy Jon Finer, orchestrate these elements of national power to achieve strategic effects. National security decision-making is the hardest job in the U.S. government because it requires crisis management skills, strategic foresight, confidence with humility, a knowledge of history, an ability to be politically smart but not partisan, personal relationships — and above all a commitment to keep at it, even when global events often seem beyond our control.

This week it all came together, and President Biden showed why his experience and wisdom as a global leader keeps America strong.

Jeremy Bash is a co-founder and managing director of Beacon Global Strategies, a consulting firm in Washington, D.C. He served as chief of staff at the Defense Department and CIA under President Obama and on Capitol Hill as chief counsel of the House Intelligence Committee.