Home/Daniel Larison/Ted Cruz’s Foreign Policy and the “Paul-DeMint Caucus”

Ted Cruz’s Foreign Policy and the “Paul-DeMint Caucus”

Jim Antle comments on the growing number of Tea Party-aligned conservatives in the Senate:

Even with a growing Paul-DeMint caucus in the Senate, there is always a risk that the GOP’s small-government fervor will once again prove evanescent. We’ve seen Republicans who decried Hillarycare as a socialist plot embrace Romneycare and Medicare Part D. We’ve watched them oppose war in Kosovo and then cheerlead for it in Iraq. What will today’s Obamacare opponents favor tomorrow? Will those who were against intervening in Libya march to Iran and Syria?

Some of those questions can’t be answered yet, but there is at least a provisional answer to the last one. Antle mentioned Mike Lee, Jim DeMint, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul in the article. There is some evidence available that tells us what each one’s position would be concerning military action in Iran. Cruz’s views are the least developed, but based on what he has said so far there isn’t much reason to expect him to be skeptical about future military interventions. His answer in this voter guide that I have cited previously suggests that his foreign policy would be much more like Rubio’s than Paul’s:

Iran and North Korea present perhaps the greatest danger in the modern world, specifically nuclear weapons (and the threat of nuclear weapons) in the hands of two of the world’s most murderous regimes. We must pursue all means necessary to contain that threat. International sanctions should continue to pressure the Iranian and North Korean elites to decide it’s in their best interests to abandon nuclear weapons – and, ideally, overthrow their current regimes [bold mine-DL]. In the meantime, Iran and North Korea must understand they face a threat of overwhelming force if we see any evidence that they might pass nuclear weapons on to terrorists or threaten us with nuclear blackmail.

The good news is Cruz was still willing to speak in terms of containment and sanctions rather than immediately calling for military action, but that’s not saying much. Otherwise, he is reading from the interventionist script. Pursuing “all means necessary” certainly leaves the door open to military action in the future, and his “threat of overwhelming force” remark indicates that he would be willing to support a large-scale war against both countries if he sees evidence that they “might” do either of the things he mentioned. (Why any government would hand off any of their nuclear weapons to a third party is something that hawks never attempt to explain, because the idea makes no sense.) It isn’t clear how Cruz reconciles his goal of U.S.-sponsored regime change in both countries with an effort to persuade these regimes that they should not have a nuclear deterrent. We can hope that Cruz adopts a less confrontational view once in office, but the early signs aren’t good. If Cruz is going to promote the cause of limited government, it appears that this will not extend to the government’s activities overseas.

DeMint was against the Libyan war, but that had more to do with the war’s lack of Congressional authorization than it did with the war’s goals. Mike Lee’s objections were similar. Since Congress never did anything to protest the illegality of the Libyan war, opposition to it didn’t require any votes to be cast. It isn’t certain that many Republicans opposed to the war on constitutional grounds would have still been against the war if Obama had gone through the formality of requesting authorization. When it comes to Iran, DeMint and Lee are more predictablyhawkish. The short answer is that their skepticism of the Libyan war tells us very little about their views on Iran policy, and it seems likely that they would oppose military strikes on Iran only if they were launched without consulting Congress.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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