On Thursday, Ted Cruz announced a foreign policy team that was somehow even more frightening.
Described by Bloomberg’s Eli Lake as a sort of team of rivals, the only thing Cruz’s smattering of war hawks and racists seem to disagree on is why we should bomb brown people halfway around the world. Former Bush administration officials Elliott Abrams and Mary Habeck want to for the sake of American imperialism. Professional Islamophobe Frank Gaffney, along with three members of his think tank who have also signed on to Cruz’s team, simply don’t like Muslims.
The inclusion of Gaffney and members of his team is especially notable, given that Cruz has described his foreign policy worldview in overtly religious terms, and has frequently incorporated religious extremists into his campaign on the full slate of conservative Christian hot-buttons. From abortion to same-sex marriage to foreign policy, Cruz has repeatedly called into question whether his palling around with extremists is mere identity signaling, or whether he actually shares their views.
Regardless of their reasoning, every member of Cruz’s team is in favor of heavy American intervention in the Middle East. The core division, according to Lake, is whether that intervention should be implicitly or explicitly anti-Muslim:
As Cruz makes the case that he is the last, best chance to prevent Trump from winning his party’s nomination, his foreign-policy advisers include not only Gaffney, but also three others who work for Gaffney’s think tank: former CIA officers Fred Fleitz and Clare Lopez and former Army Special Forces Master Sergeant Jim Hanson. Also on the list is Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the first World Trade Center bombing. McCarthy has been outspoken in his view that adherents at least to political Islam are seeking to impose Sharia law in the U.S.
At the same time, Cruz’s team includes former officials who reject Gaffney’s broad view that any Muslim who believes in Sharia law by definition believes in a totalitarian and violent ideology at war with America.
Another Cruz adviser, Elliott Abrams, helped craft Bush’s policy to empower moderate Muslims in the Middle East against radicals. He told me he feels much the same way as Habeck. “It’s now 15 years since 9/11, and I think it’s obvious that Muslim citizens in the U.S. and Muslim leaders abroad have an absolutely critical role to play in fighting jihadis and other Muslim extremists,” Abrams said. “This is partly a battle within Islam that they are going to have fight and win. Alienating these potential allies is the kind of foolish policy that the Obama administration has engaged in when it comes to Arab states that are our allies.”
Given Cruz’s tenor on the campaign trail, I’m inclined to think that he’s more sympathetic to Gaffney’s side of this argument. He has repeatedly castigated President Obama for refusing to say the magic words — “radical Islamic terrorism” — that both Obama and George Bush avoided for the express purpose of not alienating potential Muslim allies. He has described his strategy for combatting the Islamic State using Biblical language. He has promised to bomb Syria “until the sand glows,” which seems a bit too wild for a Very Serious Analyst like Abrams’s tastes.
However, with Marco Rubio out, establishment neocons have no one else to turn to, forcing them into a marriage with some of the right’s fringiest of fringe figures.
It makes Donald Trump’s arrogant self-reliance seem tame by comparison.