Ted Cruz, some supporters are arguing, is dead-set on a presidential campaign for 2016 and determined to make foreign policy his focus. It does not appear, it would seem, that this comes from a long mulling over the state of the world today, but instead as a response to the current very Republican-friendly re-animation of the post 9/11 hysteria about Jihadist terror that Josh has now noted. And his position is not neoconservative. He has no illusions about the ability of developing countries, especially in the Middle East, to find a way forward to democratic stability with American help. And so he would be as skeptical as I am that Obama’s new war in Iraq will somehow prod the sects there to overcome their differences and construct a functioning broad-based government. Instead he just wants to bomb the crap out of places from the air – or engage in massive military efforts to quell enemies – and then run away. Or, in his 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. I don’t think it’s the job of our military to engage in nation-building. It is the job of our military to protect America and to hunt down and kill those who would threaten to murder Americans. It is not the job of our military to occupy countries across the globe and try to turn them into democratic utopias.”
Well, I’m with him on that last p0int. But I’m not sure that the “rubble makes no trouble” paradigm really works in practice. If you’re dealing with Islamist terror, brutal bombing raids, which would inevitably involve civilian casualties, could very well provoke more resistance, more anti-Americanism and more terrorism. Even an occupation designed to quell an insurgency, as in Iraq from 2004 – 2010, failed to do that. And such a policy would be very hard to sell to allies – as even the current containment policy toward ISIS suggests. Then there’s his softer belligerence: much tougher sanctions against Russia and Iran. As if sanctions against the one government policy supported by the Iranian people – a peaceful nuclear program – would somehow resolve the problem. Or as if Obama hasn’t done both those things already.
But I expect Cruz to run, and I would not be surprised if he won. In the current mood – with the right returning to outright panic over Islamism, despite no terror attacks from any of the putative deadliest foes – the atavistic strain is tumescent. The GOP base wants revenge and bombs and bombast – preferably against Muslims. And the symbol of all this will be Greater Israel – the state that bombs its enemies with ruthless abandon, and with no apology. Just as Obama has adopted the Likudnik policy of “mowing the lawn” in the Middle East, Cruz will take that even further. The world will be our Gaza!
Today, I wondered whether the administration cared any more about whether a terror threat was imminent or non-existent before going to war against it; I tried to makes sense of the president’s apparent conviction that the Shi’a, Sunnis and Kurds will at some point decide they love Iraq more than they hate each other; I outed John Oliver as a journalist; and Jake Weisberg penned a tart review of Rick Perlstein’s history of the right. Man, I miss Jake’s writing.
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