Meet Ted Cruz’s nightmare of a foreign policy team

On Wednesday, Donald Trump said that his foreign policy team consisted of no one other than himself (“I have a very good brain,” he explained).

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:

classic-monsters-largeAs 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.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Wait — where’s John Bolton?

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  • DoverBill
  • The entire Republican party has become a nightmare.

  • quax

    Of the two candidates, Cruz is indeed actually the worse one.

  • emjayay

    Better than that team. Anything, or nothing in this case, would be better. If rather more predictable.

  • Ol’ Hippy

    After a lot of care and restraint by Obama, I’m afraid the new leader, regardless of which one, will escalate to tension and maybe a new war in the ME. HRC has the same neo-cons for foreign policy as Cruz. Cruz though will go back on the Iran deal, he’s said as much, and I’m sure his approach will be a scorched earth policy assuring a new batch of enemies. There are ways to fight ISIL without destroying more of Syria and Iraq. Trump; who knows what is a good guess as any because it’ll be great and fantastic. HRC will at least keep the Iran deal even though she is a lot more sympathetic to Israel. So I feel it’s going to get worse before it gets better but we can all hope it doesn’t become a never ending quagmire of wars and terrorists.

  • emjayay

    I’ve always thought that Cruz would be far more dangerous a president than the Trumpster. And he would be, not that I want to find out in either case.

  • Under the Sea

    At least Cruz has a damn team. Trump uses himself.

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