Before the Wisconsin primary, Sen. Ted Cruz’s views on foreign policy got too little attention.
The media were so focused on Donald Trump’s wacky worldview and odd foreign policy “advisers” that scant attention was paid to the Texan’s foreign policy doctrine or team. That neglect should end now that Cruz’s win Tuesday has undercut Trump’s chance of clinching the nomination before the GOP convention.
And once you start paying attention, what you find almost makes The Donald look good.
Trump’s proposals — like blackmailing Mexico to pay for a border wall and withdrawing from NATO — are so wacky, and his advisory team such nonentities, that it’s almost impossible to take him seriously. Cruz, on the other hand, comes across as very, very serious.
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The Texas senator’s approach to foreign policy could aptly be summed up by his formula for defeating the Islamic State: “We will carpet-bomb them into oblivion.” In case conventional bombs aren’t enough, Cruz has added darkly, “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.”
Call it the bomb-’em-back-to-the-stone-age doctrine (with a nod to the World War II- and Vietnam-era Gen. Curtis LeMay). Cruz seems to be appealing to the same American frustrations as Trump, courting voters who just want to obliterate the Mideast and be done with it so we don’t need to think about it anymore.
Never mind that the indiscriminate bombing deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere would enrage the Muslim world, indeed most of the world. The ensuing carnage would ensure the emergence of IS 2.0 and 3.0 in these devastated countries. This doesn’t seem to concern Cruz.
Indeed, he says that on his first day in office, he would junk President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, which — whatever its flaws — will prevent Tehran from producing enough fissile material for nuclear weapons for at least a decade. This move would probably convince the ayatollahs to renege on their end of the deal, forcing Cruz to decide whether it was worth going to war to prevent an Iranian bomb.
Given his apocalyptic language about the ayatollahs, would he carpet-bomb Tehran into oblivion? If not, what’s his Plan B?
Unlike Ronald Reagan — whom he constantly cites as his role model — Cruz seems to have a very limited foreign policy toolbox. Reagan used force in proxy wars with the Soviets and spoke of them as “an evil empire,” but he also negotiated nuclear weapons treaties with Moscow.
Cruz, on the other hand, seems disinterested in dealing with the complexities of the world he lives in. He proposes that police “patrol and secure” Muslim neighborhoods in America, a bizarre idea that insults Muslim Americans, few of whom live in isolated neighborhoods anyway. Cruz seems determined to alienate moderate Muslims at home and abroad.
Indeed, the Texan appears convinced that the international fight against jihadi terrorist thugs must be waged as a religious war of Christianity versus Islam, a narrative that plays right into the hands of IS. To get a sense of Cruz’s penchant for religious war, you need only look at some of the fringe extremists he has hired for his foreign policy team.
That team includes Frank Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy, a think tank that propagates wild conspiracy theories. Gaffney has said that “Barack Hussein Obama would have to be considered America’s first Muslim president.”
Gaffney also claims the Muslim Brotherhood has “penetrated” the Bush and Obama administrations and is out to impose Shariah over the entire country. His views are so bizarre that he has charged Grover Norquist with being a mole for the Brotherhood. Norquist, you may recall, is the president of Americans for Tax Reform and the creator of the anti-tax pledge that nearly every Republican in Congress has signed on to.
When asked recently by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about Gaffney’s role in his campaign, Cruz said, “I appreciate his good counsel.” Chew that one over for a while.
Also on Cruz’s team is retired Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, an evangelical Christian whose public religiosity caused him difficulties when he was still on active duty. Boykin casts the war against radical Islamists as a struggle between Christians and Satan. And then there is Cruz team member Michael Ledeen, who for years has urged the United States to carry out “regime change” in Tehran.
So if you thought Trump was scary, give a thought to what the country may face if President Cruz enters the White House. Consider the prospect of a deeply religious Christian evangelical who believes in holy war and surrounds himself with like-minded advisers.
That prospect is almost enough to make Trump sound like a reasonable man.
Trudy Rubin is a columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Readers may email her at email@example.com.