Speaker of the House Paul RyanPaul RyanShutdown fears spur horse-trading GOP, Trump administration huddle on tax reform Overnight Healthcare: Dems eye deal on ObamaCare subsidies for extra military funding MORE (R-Wis.) offered a full-throated defense of an interventionist American foreign policy at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference Monday, the same day Republican presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpPriebus: Syria, China moves part of 'Trump Doctrine' Poll: Most millennials disapprove of Trump Trudeau calls premiers to talk US trade MORE questioned U.S. funding for NATO and said America should look out for itself.
Addressing a cheering crowd of thousands in Washington, D.C., Ryan declared, "I think we need to build a confident America.
"And the way I see it, a confident America does not shirk our commitments or shunt aside our allies."
Without naming Trump or Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzKansas Republican sworn in after special election Overnight Finance: Dems want ObamaCare subsidies for extra military spending | Trade battle: Woe, Canada? | Congress nears deal to help miners | WH preps to release tax plan Cruz: Seize money from drug lords to fund border wall MORE — the other Republican presidential candidate arguing that America needs to stop intervening so much overseas — Ryan argued strongly for a traditionally hawkish foreign policy.
"I do hear people raising doubts every now and then," Ryan told the AIPAC crowd to cheers. "They say things like: 'The Middle East is a mess. It’s none of our business. Why are we involved? Why are we picking sides?' "
Trump has been making precisely this argument for months, saying the U.S. has been squandering trillions of dollars in the Middle East with no benefit to the country.
"At what point do you say, 'Hey, we have to take care of ourselves?'" Trump asked The Washington Post editorial board on Monday.
"NATO is costing us a fortune," Trump reportedly added. "And, yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money."
Ryan, by contrast, singled out NATO for praise, saying America made a choice after World War II to "build institutions that would foster cooperation."
"These were the years that we created NATO and GATT [the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade] and the International Monetary Fund," Ryan told the AIPAC crowd.
"And, of course, in 1948 we were the very first country to recognize the state of Israel, just minutes after she declared independence.
"Both the World War and the Cold War taught us that free countries are safer when we work with each other, when we stand by each other, when we trust each other — because then, when a threat arises, we can confront it together.
Ryan described the U.S.-Israel alliance as an asset, not a liability.
"A confident America keeps its word. It stands by our allies. It stands by Israel."