Dare We Hope that Ted Cruz is Hostile to the Neocons?

The question raised by this story at National Review is: Does this reflect Ted Cruz’s real position or is he posing? (I don’t think of Ted Cruz as someone who is likely to pose, but it almost seems too good to be true.)

We are told in the headline, “Many GOP Foreign-Policy Leaders Are Suspicious of Ted Cruz.”

An influential chorus within the Republican establishment is raising questions about whether Ted Cruz can be trusted on foreign policy. Among this crowd, Cruz’s use of the term “neocon” was seen as the latest evidence of his willingness to elevate politics over principle on matters of national security.

By the end of George W. Bush’s second term in office, the term “neoconservative,” once widely used to describe the hawkish foreign-policy views held by several of the president’s most senior advisers, had become radioactive. As critics began using it to describe a cadre of like-minded Jews who had allegedly hijacked American foreign policy and driven the U.S. to war in Iraq, it took on a conspiratorial tinge. 

So when Ted Cruz, on the campaign trail in Iowa and again in an interview with Bloomberg News, recently pointed the finger at “neocons” in an attempt to defend his own understanding of American interests abroad, the response among some conservative foreign-policy experts — many of whom the term has been used to disparage — was of shock, anger, and dismay.

“He knows that the term in the usual far-left and far-right parlance means warmonger, if not warmongering Jewish advisers, so it is not something he should’ve done,” says Elliott Abrams, a former Bush administration National Security Council official and a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

National Review is often neocon-friendly. While this article poses as a news story, the fact that it leaves the antisemite smear stand shows that it is stacked against Cruz. No one cares that neocons are Jewish (and many are not). What matters is that they are leading the county into national suicide. If Cruz really opposes them, that’s a point in his favor.

Cruz is a master of triangulation and, since his arrival in the Senate, has said repeatedly that his views fall somewhere between those of John McCain on one end of the foreign-policy spectrum and Rand Paul on the other. At least rhetorically, Marco Rubio has replaced McCain now that Rubio and Cruz are competing for the Republican nomination. The perception of Republicans, Cruz said in Iowa late last month, is that either they “want to retreat from the world and be isolationist and leave everyone alone, or we’ve got to be these crazy neo-con invade-every-country-on-earth and send our kids to die in the Middle East.” Days later, he told Bloomberg, “The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. If the Obama administration and the Washington neo-cons succeed in toppling [Bashar al-] Assad, Syria will be handed over to radical Islamic terrorists. ISIS will rule Syria.”

I hope Cruz is not merely “triangulating.” But his position on Syria is exactly right. We should be fighting ISIS, not Assad. And if Marco Rubio is the new McCain, that doesn’t make him someone we should want as President.