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Cruz’s Reckless Foreign Policy

Perhaps the most worrisome thing about Ted Cruz is that he now bizarrely thinks [1] foreign policy is his strong suit:

Indeed, ever since he played an instrumental role in last year’s government shutdown, Cruz has narrowed his agenda to focus on international affairs, both as an avenue to raise his profile among GOP donors and to pivot away from his reputation as a conservative kamikaze bent on wreaking havoc inside the halls of Congress [bold mine-DL].

That’s good thinking on Cruz’s part. It’s much better to be known as a hard-line kamikaze bent on wreaking havoc all over the world instead. The interesting thing about this report is that Cruz has largely confirmed the description of his foreign policy that I offered [2] last week: “shoot first and don’t ask any questions.” This is his position in his own words:

“If and when military action is called for, it should be A) with a clearly defined military objective, B) executed with overwhelming force, and C) when we’re done we should get the heck out,” he said.

By his own admission, Cruz is quite open to using force, he wants that force to be “overwhelming,” and he doesn’t want to give the slightest thought to the aftermath. As I said [2], it is an approach best described as “killing lots of people and then going home.” Apart from being overly reliant on military solutions and oblivious to the consequences of war, the problem with this is that he offers no good definition of what it means to say “when we’re done.” Cruz presents his position as if it were a repudiation of costly, prolonged military intervention, but that is not the case. His preferred approach would create the conditions that would virtually guarantee a long-term U.S. commitment in the countries that he wants to attack. The fact that he can’t or won’t acknowledge this just makes his position that much worse. If Cruz thinks this is the “sweet spot” on foreign policy, he will be sorely disappointed. Conservatives that are interested in a sane, restrained, and responsible foreign policy shouldn’t be taken in by what he has to say.

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6 Comments To "Cruz’s Reckless Foreign Policy"

#1 Comment By BD On September 30, 2014 @ 6:14 am

Cruz may have simplistic and dangerously reckless ideas about our foreign policy, but the quoted passage above in itself isn’t really objectionable. First, it starts with “if and when military action is called for”–implying that first a determination must be made as to whether we should take military action (a consideration that seems to be lacking with hawks like John McCain and alas, our president). That should of course be a weighty consideration, as many of our military interventions are casually entered into.

Second, while I would quibble with always using overwhelming force–sometimes a more limited action is called for–at least requiring overwhelming force would make us think through just how committed we are. Thinking we can launch wars on the cheap is often how we force ourselves into escalations.

Third, he’s right about a defined military objective. I can’t argue with that. How to determine whether it’s defined is another matter–our policymakers probably thought they had a defined military objective in 1965 in Vietnam. But this part of Cruz’s statement is a truism.

Finally, “get the heck out”–while obviously sometimes that isn’t feasible or wise (imagine if we pulled everyone out of Germany in 1945 after Berlin fell, and left Germany to its own devices) there is something to be said for this as a reaction to our more recent interventions, where our sticking around made things worse.

While the passage above can be quibbled with as a general rule, it’s not necessarily a dangerously stupid statement compared with a lot of what our Senators have been saying lately about ISIS and our foreign policy in general. Ted Cruz I believe does have a dangerously simplistic foreign policy outlook (when it’s not just a craven attempt to fire up his own base) but that quote isn’t the best demonstration of that.

#2 Comment By Egypt Steve On September 30, 2014 @ 7:47 am

As Calgachus said of the Romans:

Ubi solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant.

It works until it doesn’t.

#3 Comment By native son On September 30, 2014 @ 9:19 am

My foreign policy is better than Cruz’s.

My foreign policy is to not let people like Ted Cruz become American citizens, run for Senate, and then start blustering about how they intend to use my country’s military power.

#4 Comment By Hopeful Independent On September 30, 2014 @ 9:42 am

I hold no brief for Cruz, God knows, but the foreign policy implications of the quote is no more reckless than Hillary Clinton’s known position, for example.

Clinton’s is in a sense even more irresponsible because it consciously, strategically commits us to these hellholes over the long-term, instead working to get us out.

Where is the candidate promising to get us out of the Middle East? The one who will focus on American problems in America?

That’s the winning strategy, the one people want, and it only takes one credible candidate to prove it. The Cruzes and Clintons of this world only offer more meddling, more money gushing out, more war.

#5 Comment By tbraton On September 30, 2014 @ 5:01 pm

As I said last week in response to an earlier blog of yours, every now and then Cruz says something sensible, which truly gets your head spinning trying to make sense of his thought process. See [3] At the very least, no one can claim that he has the proper temperament to be President.

#6 Comment By T. Sledge On October 1, 2014 @ 12:40 pm

Forty-five years ago, we were bogged down in a war against a nation of peasants. Most of the senior officers in the military at that time had been junior officers during the last months of WW II, when US forces were rolling into Germany and Japan as conquering heroes. All of them seemed to remember only the final days of that war, and none of early battles, and how far from certain victory had been in the early going.

Since those heroic days, few of the enemy forces that we have engaged militarily have done us the good favor of fighting a conventional war (in which case, we surely would have prevailed).

Cruz hasn’t learned the lesson that we should have learned from HO CHI MINH’s strategy against us 5 decades ago: you do NOT have to defeat the American military in order to be victorious; you just have to make it impossible for the American military to inflict a decisive defeat upon you. You just have to be able to keep your forces in the field, and inflict sufficient casualties on the Americans until they reach that critical mass of squandered American lives and squandered American treasure where the public will turn on the politicians who got them into the mess.

Al Qaeda takes that lesson one step further: you don’t even have to belong to a nation state to engage in a variation of the same strategy. You can take the war to the Americans on the cheap through acts of terrorism on American soil. You can trick some blustery politician into squandering military resources in an effort to “defeat” TERRORISM, and by his very actions, fill your ranks with plenty of new terrorists.

Cruz seems to be primed to play the fool who falls for that strategy.