Ted Cruz on Monday offered his strongest denunciation so far of Marco Rubio's foreign policy views, assailing his Republican presidential rival as a proponent of “military adventurism” that he said has benefited Islamic militant groups....I understand why Cruz would want to hang Benghazi around Rubio's neck. But the rest of what he's saying doesn't seem as if it's going to hit the pleasure centers in wingnut voters' brains. "Military adventurism" is bad? The Ron/Rand Paul contingent of the GOP might believe that, but that voting bloc just seems to get smaller and smaller every day. (Seen Rand's poll numbers lately?)
“Senator Rubio emphatically supported Hillary Clinton in toppling [Muammar] Qaddafi in Libya. I think that made no sense,” Cruz told Bloomberg Politics in a wide-ranging and exclusive interview during a campaign swing through Iowa. He argued that the 2011 bombings that toppled the Libyan leader didn't help the fight against terrorists. “Qaddafi was a bad man, he had a horrible human rights record. And yet ... he had become a significant ally in fighting radical Islamic terrorism.”
“The terrorist attack that occurred in Benghazi was a direct result of that massive foreign policy blunder,” Cruz said....
The Texan portrayed himself as a third way between the stalwart, non-interventionist views of Senator Rand Paul and pro-interventionist policies in pursuit of spreading democracy and human rights through the Middle East that Rubio espouses. Cruz's belief is that trying to democratize those societies can be counterproductive and that U.S. military power should be focused narrowly on protecting U.S. interests.
“If you look at President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and for that matter some of the more aggressive Washington neo-cons, they have consistently mis-perceived the threat of radical Islamic terrorism and have advocated military adventurism that has had the effect of benefiting radical Islamic terrorists,” he said.
Cruz is trying to articulate his foreign policy philosophy the way candidates have traditionally done it: by making detailed pronouncements and comparing himself to other candidates using traditional categories. He's not an "interventionist"; he's not an "isolationist." Thoughtful panelists on Sunday talk shows will ponder this and consider whether they've assigned him to the wrong"lane" in the presidential race.
But all that is completely irrelevant to the race as it's actually taking place, because the frontrunner, Donald Trump, is going straight for those wingnut pleasure centers, which tingle at the thought of killing lots and lots of brown people. Yes, Trump is somewhat less interventionist than Rubio, which puts him in the same foreign policy "lane" as Cruz, according to the thoughtful pundits. But Trump's "plan" for ISIS, he's told us, is this: "I would bomb the shit out of them." Every wingnut gets a thrill up the leg from that. And even the best-known example of Trump's purported non-interventionism -- "If Putin wants to knock the hell out of ISIS, I’m all for it 100 percent and I can’t understand how anybody would be against that" -- imagines brown-skinned terrorists being killed by a strongman who presumably doesn't care about avoidance of civilian casualties or "political correctness." Those of us who are actually paying attention know that Putin isn't particularly interested in fighting ISIS, but to Trump's fans, this idea probably seems like more red meat.
Cruz can formulate whatever policy doctrine he chooses -- but in public he should emphasize vengeance and rage if he wants to have a shot at defeating Trump. He's trying too hard to be a normal politician. He needs to be a crude simpleton.