With the release of U.S Senator Ted Cruz’s foreign policy team, the focus may be about to change in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Cruz, whose 423 delegates come closest to Donald Trump’s 678, may be gearing up for a run as the GOP’s last chance to stop the real estate mogul’s march to the nomination. Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, previously an opponent of Cruz’s, is expected to endorse the Texas senator soon.
The release of the Cruz foreign policy team indicates the senator may be taking a hawkish position for the remainder of the Republican nominating contest. Among the names on the list are well-known neoconservatives Elliott Abrams, Frank Gaffney, and Michael Ledeen.
In his time in the Senate, Cruz has sent conflicting signals about his foreign policy positions. In his first year in the Senate, he was among the legislators leading the opposition to a proposed intervention in the Syrian civil war. His opposition to the intervention was strong enough that he claimed the U.S. is not “al Qaeda’s air force,” referring to the faction American armed forces would be purportedly and indirectly supporting.
Earlier in this campaign cycle, Cruz criticized the prevailing foreign policy of the GOP:
“Some of the more aggressive Washington neocons have consistently misperceived the threat of radical Islamic terrorism and have advocated military adventurism that has had the effect of benefitting radical Islamic terrorists.”
However, Cruz has in this same cycle endorsed carpet bombing ISIS and perhaps sardonically said, “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.”
The addition of Abrams, Gaffney, and Ledeen may ultimately prove beneficial to the front-runner Trump. Abrams and Gaffney were signatories to the positions of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a think tank that advocated a “global Pax Americana” that included obstructing any nation that sought to undermine American interests in the world. PNAC was a strong supporter of regime change in Iraq.
“Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”
Although Trump has made numerous conflicting statements in the course of his public life and campaign, he has somewhat consistently opposed the 2003 war in Iraq. In a debate earlier this year, Trump asserted the war was a mistake and despite some audience boos, survived the exchange unscathed. The anti-Iraq invective may have helped drive former Florida Governor Jeb Bush from the race.
Earlier this month, Trump was denounced in an open letter by some of the more aggressive GOP hawks, particularly over his conflicting statements that they said would “diminish our standing in the world.” Signatories included Ken Adelman, Max Boot, and Daniel Pipes, as well as former George W. Bush administration officials Michael Chertoff and Randy Scheunemann.
Foreign policy has not played a very big role in the campaign, but the announcement of Cruz’s foreign policy team may signal a change in focus. Not hurt by the exchange with Jeb Bush over Iraq, it may also present a new opening for Donald Trump to put away one of his final obstacles to the nomination.