Ted Cruz – The Foreign Policy Goldilocks

Posted on April 22, 2015


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Part of what prompted me to write this column was a segment on Fox News a few nights ago.  (Editor’s Note: this report has been updated since its’ original 4/22/15 publication).  Sean Hannity, whom I only watch when I’m visiting  mom in Arizona, was interviewing former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani about what the mayor would do if dealing with the out of control Spring Break mess down in Panama City, Florida. Rudy said he’d see to it that matters were taken in hand within 24 to 36 hours.

Given the fact that he and Commissioner Bratton turned NYC into a decent place to visit during their terms at the helm, I have no doubt that it would be child’s play in his competent hands. But during the course of the interview, some broader topics came up, including foreign policy and the GOP nomination race. Mayor Giuliani told Sean Hannity that he’s comfortable with America remaining “the World’s Policeman”.

As much of a fan as I am of Mayor Giuliani, he and I are in disagreement on that particular point. There is a spectrum of opinion and expressed policy among the GOP contenders for the nomination, regarding America’s role in foreign conflicts, although some have staked a more defined position than others. We’ll look at some of them here. And yes, as promised in the title – Ted Cruz will be contrasted to the rest of the pack, and when we’ve done so, I believe you will see why he is by far the most balanced, sensible and Constitutionally sound of the candidates with respect to foreign policy.

Let’s start with an individual who is shaping up to be the main establishment GOP pick now that Jeb Bush is fading into irrelevancy, Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Rubio, based on his record and on a body of public statements, is firmly in the camp of interventionist foreign policy. In this regard, he is more of a parrot of John McCain and Lindsay Graham than he is of Jeb Bush. As such, his judgment is suspect in this area as much as on the topic of immigration and the border.

Rubio is very enthusiastic about injecting more U.S. troops into sectarian conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere. One glaring example is his backing at the time, of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s participation in the removal of Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi.

Rubio joint authored a Oct. 2011 Wall Street Journal op-ed (together with McCain, Graham and Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois) in which they declared “Mission Accomplished” in these terms:

Last Thursday we arrived in Tripoli to the promise of a free Libya. We saw a city that is surprisingly secure and orderly. We visited al-Jdeida prison and spoke freely with detainees—a testament to the commitment of the Transitional National Council (TNC) to democracy, transparency and the rule of law. At the end of the day, we walked through Martyrs’ Square, where Libyans cheered and thanked America and our NATO allies.

Rubio and the Senate NeoCons weren’t the only ones cheerleading the Obama administration’s takedown of Qaddafi. The New York Times posted an editorial titled, “U.S. Tactics in Libya May be a Model for Other Efforts.” The Times claimed that events had given “Obama’s senior advisers a chance to claim a key victory for an Obama doctrine for the Middle East that had been roundly criticized in recent months as leading from behind.”

The excitement over the removal of Qaddafi was a bi-partisan affair. Democrats and Republicans alike hoisted a glass to salute the ‘victory’. The Intercept says that “Hillary Clinton was downright sociopathic, gloating and cackling in an interview when told about Gadaffi’s death by mob: ‘We came, we saw, he died.’ Democratic partisans were drowning in similar bravado (“Unlike the all-hat-no-cattle types we are increasingly seeing over there, [Obama] may take his time, but he does seem to get his man”).”

Later, Rubio was a vocal advocate for arming what many Republicans and Democrats were claiming were “moderate rebels” in Syria. Rubio followed the line of Obama administration officials and the GOP hawks in Congress that rebels of a democratic bent could be distinguished from those of the jihadist persuasion. Pure fiction.

Rubio argued in March 2013 that, “it’s in the national interest of the United States for Bashar al-Assad to leave. It’s in our national interest for that government to fall. I think the United States has always stood on the side of human rights, should always continue to stand on the side of democracy.”

When the House of Representatives stopped to consider the consequences of attacking Assad and the unproven and ultimately false narrative that Obama and Kerry were presenting about Assad having been responsible for releasing nerve gas on citizens, they got cold feet and Rubio decided he’d rather not be out on a limb with just his handful of fellow Senate sabre rattlers.

Rubio still didn’t understand the facts on the ground in Syria anymore than he did in Libya. He continued to propose that America should involve itself with the effort of the Syrian opposition to regime change Assad “and replace him with a secular and moderate government they deserve.”

I have made the case on numerous occasions that “moderate rebels” were and are as common in Syria as Unicorns. Actually, you would have greater chances of stumbling upon a Unicorn. So, Rubio and McCain and Graham and Hillary Clinton are all on the same page. They would have us aiding militants (various factions and splinters of the Islamic State) that have already committed horrific atrocities in Syria and Iraq – and now, Libya. Hillary, as Secretary of State, already has.

Back to the Libya meltdown.  What actually happened in Libya after Rubio, McCain, Kirk and Graham’s enthusiastic proclamation of success in Libya?  Libya began to disintegrate even as the dust from the NATO bombing settled. The ‘Transitional National Council’ was a spectacular failure. The country plunged into economic calamity and universal anarchy. Armed militia and terrorist groups immediately began availing themselves of Qaddafi’s arsenal and concurrent with that, began receiving funding and weapons from Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, among others.

One of the most bitter fruits of the overthrow of Qaddafi was Benghazi – the very type of event which many critics of the NATO participation warned was possible. That’s right – this administration didn’t walk into the catastrophe they were destined to effect, cold. There were warnings. Pentagon brass. particularly DefSec Robert Gates and JCOS Chairman Admiral Mullen strongly opposed “Hillary’s War”. As the Washington Times reported:

“Top Pentagon officials and a senior Democrat in Congress so distrusted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2011 march to war in Libya that they opened their own diplomatic channels with the Gadhafi regime in an effort to halt the escalating crisis, according to secret audio recordings recovered from Tripoli.

The Washington Times also reported that Hillary “repeatedly dismissed the warnings offered by career military and intelligence officials” – and prevented any of those warnings from reaching the President or members of Congress

And as Libya immediately began disintegrating in the aftermath of Hillary’s War, Ambassador Stevens and his staff saw trouble coming for months and witnessed other friendly nations’ diplomatic compounds attacked and couldn’t get Hillary Clinton’s bureaucracy to provide security assets. Now, fast forward to 2015 and the New York Times has a totally different perspective of post Qaddafi Libya:

Largely overshadowed by the crises in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine, Libya’s unraveling has received comparatively little attention over the past few months. As this oil-rich nation veers toward complete chaos, world leaders would be wise to redouble efforts led by the United Nations to broker a power-sharing deal among warring factions.

The New York Times now quotes as an authoritative source on Libya, not Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or John McCain’s NeoCon posse, but Bernardino León, the United Nations envoy to Libya, who says, “Libya has the same features of potentially becoming as bad as what we’re seeing in Iraq and Syria. The difference is that Libya is just a few miles away from Europe.”

Libya has been overrun by Islamist groups that are have been and continue to align themselves with the Islamic State and atrocities that Qaddafi would even find excessive, are common in Libya. Mass executions by beheading, the latest video of the mass murder of Christians from Ethiopia captured on a video released by the Islamic State on April 18th. The New York Times now admits that “the growth and radicalization of Islamist groups raise the possibility that large parts of Libya could become a satellite of the Islamic State.”

Certainly the history of the last 4 years in Libya, Syria, Egypt and Iraq, not to mention Afghanistan, have demonstrated the failure of the continuous cycle of installing and propping up dictators, deploying troops to remove them, nation building, deploying yet more troops to counter the resulting instability and terror that breeds in a vacuum, wash, rinse and repeat. Apparently not. Not if you ask Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Lindsay Graham, and Chris Christie.

According to Jeb Bush, “Our enemies need to fear us, a little bit, just enough for them to deter the actions that create insecurity,” Restoring alliances “that will create less likelihood of America’s boots on the ground has to be the priority, the first priority of the next president.” Take that as a commitment that under another Bush presidency, there most assuredly will be boots on the ground.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is very direct about his intentions to see troops once again wade into the middle of sectarian and tribal conflict, “You go over there and you fight them so they don’t come here.”  Graham’s statement is a virtual plagiarism of President George W. Bush, who stated on June 9th and July 4th, 2005, “We’re taking the fight to the terrorists abroad, so we don’t have to face them here at home.”

Did “fighting them there” expand the threat or contract it? Would we be safer if we had made a genuine and serious effort to strengthen our borders instead? Did Bush or Obama secure our borders or win the ‘Global War On Terror” (GWOT), which is not even referenced as such anymore at the Pentagon, State Department or the White House?

Governor Scott Walker (a recent drop out from the race) repeated a variation on Bush’s theme a while back, telling an audience, “We’re not going to wait till they bring the fight to us. We’re going to bring the fight to them and fight on their soil.”

And other potential GOP candidates lament that America is not “leading”. Carly Fiorina says, “The world is a more dangerous and more tragic place when America is not leading. And America has not led for quite some time.”

‘Leading’ is shorthand in NeoCon parlance for the United States reflexively making bellicose statements, laying out “red lines” and deploying troops, aircraft carriers and warships to dozens of hot spots around the globe, with or without the advice and consent of Congress.

Then there is the case of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who articulated a balanced outlook on national defense at a CPAC event that was hosted by Breitbart and Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy:

“Now listen, I agree with many of the libertarian critics that the job of our military is not to intervene all around the world and to be the policeman for the world. And I’ll give an example. The Republican Party — you can point to two points on two ends of the spectrum, where foreign policy views lie. On one side you have the views of John McCain. The other end of the spectrum, you have the views of Rand Paul. And I would note with respect, my views are very much the views of Ronald Reagan, which I would suggest is a third point on the triangle.”

Amazingly, Cruz cited an example of a particular issue I have been writing on extensively for the past few years, the foolishness and likely treachery of providing training, funding and weapons to groups that we know to be Wahabbists, Salafists, al Qaeda affiliates and consequently –  jihadists that will attack America or our friends at any opportunity.

Senator Cruz in acknowledging Syrian President Bashar Assad as a “brutal tyrant,” urged listeners to not falsely conclude that in this case “the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend. And just because he is a brutal tyrant doesn’t mean the rebels are any better.” Cruz pointed out that it is clear that radical Islamic terrorists were in the majority of the rebel groups and that the fall of the Syrian government would inevitably mean terrorist control and use of chemical weapons, “an even worse outcome for U.S. national security interests.”  And he is right.

Unlike Senator John McCain and his cohorts, Senator Cruz is of the perspective that the military is not a hammer and every various and sundry contingency that arises internationally that doesn’t fit the “imminent danger” threshold is not a nail:

“My view, just like President Reagan on foreign policy, is if and when we are called to use military force, we should do so with a clear defined objective that is directly keyed off of U.S. national security. We should go in with overwhelming force. And then we should get the heck out. I don’t think, and I think most Americans don’t think, we should be engaged in nation building, building democratic utopias across the world.”

Senator Rand Paul has also articulated a moderated principal of national defense priorities:

Some pundits are surprised that I support destroying the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militarily. They shouldn’t be. I’ve said since I began public life that I am not an isolationist, nor am I an interventionist. I look at the world, and consider war, realistically and constitutionally. The Islamic State represents a threat that should be taken seriously. But we should also recall how recent foreign-policy decisions have helped these extremists so that we don’t make the same mistake of potentially aiding our enemies again.

Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are right. Nation building, chessboard foreign policy and attempting to impose democratic utopias doesn’t work and is a recipe for imperial overstretch, fiscal insolvency and the collapse of our republic. The record of Ted Cruz’ opponents, with the exception of Rand Paul, is a record of supporting costly failures, repeatedly.

Now that it is becoming apparent that Rand Paul is floundering and receding to the margins, the last sensible man standing in this race is Ted Cruz, the “foreign policy Goldilocks”.