Ted Cruz's Crude, Crazy Take on Dictators and Terrorism

1203_TedCruz Foreign Policy
Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz of Texas arrives at the Republican Jewish Coalition's Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Yuri Gripas/Reuters

This article first appeared on the American Enterprise Institute site.

Just back from my fruitless search for the "thousands" of Muslims who celebrated 9/11 here in the United States, and it turns out that I missed other pearls of wisdom strewn before the public by another would-be president.

This time it's Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who is determined to expose the "military adventurism" of Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

"Senator Rubio emphatically supported Hillary Clinton in toppling [Muammar] Qaddafi in Libya. I think that made no sense," Cruz told Bloomberg. "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."

Wait, what? A significant ally, you say? Is that the same Muammar el-Qaddafi who was funding the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Abu Sayyaf Group, various other extremist organizations and, yes, even Irish Republican militants?

The guy who brought down Pan Am Flight 103? Talk about letting bygones be bygones.

But it gets better: "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 misperceived the threat of radical Islamic terrorism and have advocated military adventurism that has had the effect of benefiting radical Islamic terrorists," Cruz explained to Bloomberg's scribes.

I won't speak for my close personal friends and fellow neo-cons Obama and Clinton, but exactly what have those of us who have been sounding the alarm about Islamist extremism been wrong about?

That groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS would metastasize? That they would attack outside the Middle East? That pulling out of Iraq would resuscitate them? That they represent a threat that must be addressed?

Well, yes. You see, according to Cruz, "We have no dog in the fight of the Syrian civil war." I don't know what dogs Cruz walks, but a victory for Bashar al-Assad will be the most important boost for Iran since Obama signed the Iran Deal.

And a victory for ISIS on the ground in Syria will be equally dangerous to the United States, our Gulf allies (you know, the dictators Cruz appears to admire) and Israel—all dogs that the senator from Texas has in the past seemed to have an interest in.

Then there's his paean to that great scion of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, under whom the Muslim Brotherhood grew so strong that it was able to win an election. Yes, he was a superb ally, and doubtless his successor as pharaoh, General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, will be just as marvelous. Look how well things are going.

Folks, what you need to understand is that, according to Senator Cruz, he is deeper than the "binary" choice between "retreat from the world and be isolationist" versus "invade every country on earth and send our kids to die in the Middle East."

I'm not sure where the neo-cons wish us to invade (left my decoder ring at the last Elders of Zion meeting), but what exactly does this would-be commander in chief wish us to do? Not approach Syria. Ignore Libya. Stop collecting intelligence. Love the dictators. Well, not all the dictators. Cruz isn't fond of Russia's Vladimir Putin (not enough like Qaddafi?).

What you need to understand about Russia, according to Cruz, is that "human rights have gone out the window, and the United States sadly has been all but silent speaking out against the human rights violations." Wait, does caring for Russian human rights "keep America safe"? I'm so confused.

Finally, let me put on the record that this is no brief for Rubio, who can defend himself. It is, however, a plaint for a return to serious American leadership.

Ignoring Syria, ignoring dictators, ignoring refugees, ignoring Iran's growing menace in the Middle East and occasional muscular rhetoric is the sum total of Obama foreign policy. He too likes to contrast himself with evil neo-cons.

And look where we are after seven years: worse off in Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East, Africa and, to hear the president tell it, not doing so well in Antarctica or the Arctic. Incredible.

Danielle Pletka is senior vice president of foreign- and defense-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.