Cruz’ Anti-Establishment Foreign Policy

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)

By Henry Lewis

Photograph of Ted Cruz courtesy of Huffington Post

The 2016 Republican Primary often gets described as a campaign against the “Establishment.” Candidates with longstanding Establishment ties- such as Senator Lindsey Graham and dynasty scion Jeb Bush- have struggled to gain traction. Meanwhile so-called “Outsiders” like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz of Texas have built up steam ahead of next week’s Iowa caucuses. Given this dynamic, it would seem sensible to assume that leading contenders would have brashly anti-Establishment foreign policy suggestions. Cruz’ Iran policy stands in line with the party Establishment, whereas his views on Iraq and Syria appear more atypical.

Cruz’ position regarding negotiations with Iran has hewed to the Republican mainstream. He staunchly opposed last summer’s nuclear negotiations, voting against the pact on the Senate floor. He also warned that the deal would provide the Iranian regime with money to use sponsoring terrorism against America’s regional interests. Cruz’ stance on Iran has remained consistent into the New Year. He opposed the recent deal to exchange Iranian sanctions-runners for American hostages. To Cruz, the agreement tempts terrorists to kidnap more Americans, violating a non-negotiation policy that the U.S. has held since the Jefferson administration. On the whole, Cruz’ views towards Iran remain aligned with most of the Republican party.

However, Cruz presents a more nuanced and original policy towards the ongoing chaos in Iraq and Syria. On the surface, the Texan speaks the language of a gun-totin’ sheriff. Cruz consistently lambasts President Obama for failing to use the phrase “radical Islam” and has also called for a full scale “carpet bombing” of the Islamic State. Yet in other respects Cruz’ views diverge from typical GOP hawkishness. He stood as just one of twelve Republican senators to vote against arming Syrian rebels. He also opposes an escalation of America’s combat role. Other candidates such as Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich- would send American combat troops into Iraq and Syria. Cruz, meanwhile, stands against increased involvement. Unlike other Republicans, Cruz would abstain from acting to oust Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. This policy represents an interesting break from traditional Republican interventionism. True to form, Cruz’ views on Iraq and Syria diverge from Republican Establishment orthodoxy.

While most elections focus on domestic policy, foreign policy and terror could play an unusually large role in 2016. The next few months will determine whether Cruz’ Middle East positions pay off politically. Although he has made hay as an outsider, Cruz likely will not suffer from sticking to the establishment’s Iran policy. Mistrust of Obama’s Iran rapprochement sounds like an alley-oop for winning over Republican primary voters. Cruz’ Iraq and Syria policies, however, seem more risky. His reluctance to intervene will alienate the party’s establishment hawks. Yet his harsh rhetoric and brash calls for “carpet bombing” may prevent Cruz from winning over any Libertarian types, even once Rand Paul drops out. However, more than other contenders, Cruz can lay claim to the anti-Establishment laurels thanks to these policies. Given 2016’s preference for outsiders, such a distinction may prove decisive for Cruz.


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