According to Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz is “just as wrong as Obama, if not worse” on the subject of foreign policy. In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday, the former presidential contender said he did not trust the Texas senator to do what was best for America.
“In Ted Cruz’s world,” Graham said, “dictators do very well.”
Graham slammed Cruz for promoting an isolationist foreign policy, a worldview that couldn’t be further from Graham’s own. Graham is still firmly in the “neocon” category when it comes to American interventionism, and he has been consistently critical of any approach less hawkish in nature.
It is that label – neocon – that has caused some consternation among Cruz’s detractors in the Republican Party.
“You don’t accuse someone of being a neocon if you see yourself as a Reagan conservative on national security,” said Rick Santorum last year. “And he’s not. The Republican party thanks to Ron and Rand Paul have brought different elements into the party, and I think Ted’s comfortable in those elements.”
This is a perspective Cruz has tried to refute with mixed success. He has positioned himself as an alternative choice to both the isolationists and the “neocons,” insisting that he would use American military force only when it was in the vital national interests of the country. In Iowa last month, Cruz fought the idea that you had to fit in one category or the other.
According to consensus view, he said, Republicans either “want to retreat from the world and be isolationist and leave everyone alone, or we’ve got to be these crazy neo-con invade-every-country-on-earth and send our kids to die in the Middle East.” Cruz said he wants to build a muscular foreign policy somewhere in the middle.
While that sounds sensible enough, it also sounds similar to the kind of rhetoric we hear from the Obama administration. Obama, too, has made it a point to base his foreign policy around what he calls “smart” intervention. But when you take a step back to really define what that means, it gets a little muddled. Obama’s “smart” foreign policy, as we’ve seen, has been nothing of the kind.
But there’s no indication that Cruz’s world would look like Obama’s. It is actually possible to go into the presidency without predetermining exactly when and where you will use military force. In fact, it is far preferable to have a president willing to evaluate each given situation on its own geopolitical merits than to have a rigid approach that may not fit every circumstance.
It’s time we move away from strict ideological labels when it comes to foreign policy and start learning from the mistakes of the past. There is a middle ground between ignoring threats and invading one desert kingdom after another. We should celebrate any presidential contender who has the wisdom to recognize and inhabit that space.