Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced his team of national security advisers on Thursday. The group includes a wide range of views, especially on radical Islam, and includes some veteran insiders who might be able to help Cruz build bridges back to the Republican establishment as the primary enters a tense home stretch.
“I am honored and humbled to have a range of respected voices willing to offer their best advice,” said Senator Cruz, adding:
These are trusted friends who will form a core of our broader national security team. After two terms of a failed Obama-Clinton foreign policy, our allies are confused and frightened, and our enemies are looking for opportunities. This is the moment for all those who believe in a strong America that is secure at home and respected abroad to come together and craft a new path forward.
One of Cruz’s advisers is Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, a frequent guest on Breitbart News Daily, including an appearance Wednesday. This produced the usual huffing-and-puffing from those who accuse Gaffney of being an “Islamophobe.”
For example, Eli Lake at Bloomberg View described Gaffney as “a former Reagan administration Pentagon official who has emerged as a lightning rod in the Obama era, accused by the Southern Poverty Law Center of being one of the nation’s leading Islamophobes.”
When Trump proposed a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration, he quoted from a 2015 survey of American Muslims commissioned by the think-tank Gaffney founded, the Center for Security Policy. It concluded that a quarter of U.S. Muslims supported violent jihad against the U.S. This led to speculation in the Washington press that Gaffney was advising Trump.
(A bit of advice for readers: anyone who tries to present the Southern Poverty Law Center as a neutral arbiter of “Islamophobia” or racism is trying to deceive you, not inform you.)
Lake, nevertheless, went on to note that Cruz is naming a large group of national security advisers with a broad range of opinions on Islamism and other topics, including some who are strongly opposed to Gaffney’s views, including former Reagan official Michael Ledeen and former adviser to George W. Bush Elliott Abrams.
Abrams, in particular, is concerned with alienating moderate Muslims, calling it “the kind of foolish policy that the Obama Administration has engaged in when it comes to Arab states that are our allies.”
Cruz’s primary national security adviser, Victoria Coates, was quoted saying these disagreements between members of the Cruz team are “by design, and not an accident,” noting that both Gaffney and Abrams have been meeting with Cruz for years.
Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, has worked to distinguish radical Islamist ideology from moderate Islam and has dismissed the “Islam is a religion of peace” line – essentially the bipartisan position of the American political class since the Bush administration – as simplistic.
In fact, he noted in a 2014 forum that he found it “annoying” when President Bush spoke that way, and that the “average American thinks this is crap” because of the carnage they can see roiling the Islamic world.
Other names mentioned in the Bloomberg View article are three members of Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, former CIA officers Fred Fleitz and Clare Lopez and former Army Special Forces Master Sergeant Jim Hanson, in addition to former Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew McCarthy, who was one of the prosecutors of the first World Trade Center bombing.
Also on the team are former Senator Jim Talent, lately a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; former Bush national security staffer Mary Habeck, who is a visiting scholar with AEI; former Department of Homeland Security official and NSA general counsel Stewart Baker; former Reagan and Bush intelligence official Randy Fort, now an executive with Raytheon; Nile Gardiner, a former aide to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; Robert C. O’Brien, who was a senior foreign policy adviser to Governors Scott Walker and Mitt Romney; Reagan campaign adviser and China expert Michael Pillsbury; and former State Department senior adviser Christian Whiton.
Even more think-tank firepower is provided for the Cruz coalition by American Foreign Policy Council Vice President Ilan Berman; Heritage Foundation senior fellows Mike Gonzalez, Charles Stimson, and Steven Groves; and Council on Global Security President Katharine C. Gorka.
Talent was recently critical of the suggestion by Cruz’s rival Donald Trump that the United States should be a “neutral party” in negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, advising the U.S. to be a “firm and consistent partisan on Israel’s behalf” because otherwise, “the conditions necessary for a successful agreement will never exist.”
Coates is likewise critical of the “two-state solution” process and the idea of the U.S. as a neutral broker. “Israel is in the trenches with the United States,” she said in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post. “It shares our values, it is both our security partner and economic partner, and is vital to our national security.”
“My feeling is that prioritizing the two-state solution has not been productive. The two-state solution is putting the carts before the horse,” Coates said in that interview. “We are forcing a context to a negotiation which may not be viable.”
“Senator Cruz has staked out new ground in terms of a conservative foreign policy during his years in the Senate,” Coates said on Thursday, in the announcement of his national security team. “He’s rejected the failed policies of the past and gotten back to a truly principled, Reagan-esque approach to America’s position in the world.”
Cruz campaign chairman Chad Sweet, who also has national security experience through DHS and the CIA, also invoked Reagan in his statement: “Senator Cruz has consistently demonstrated his deep commitment to Reagan’s national security philosophy, underpinned by the foundational principle of ‘peace through strength.’ The national security experts who are endorsing him today are all highly respected professionals who share Senator Cruz’s vision of how we will restore America’s leadership in the world.”
“Ted Cruz is a serious candidate who has grappled with national defense issues during his time in the Senate. His comprehensive plan to rebuild our military after the disastrous Obama administration Defense budget cuts demonstrates that he’s ready to be Commander in Chief on day one,” Jim Talent said on Thursday, adding that he looked forward to “working with Senator Cruz on policies that will keep our nation safe.”
As President, Ted Cruz will restore a foreign policy that prioritizes our national interests, unleashes our armed forces to prevail when called upon, distinguishes vital security measures from naïve adventurism, and tells other nations it is once again a boon to be America’s friend and a serious mistake to be America’s enemy.
Abrams stressed the accuracy of Cruz’s vision with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian situation:
Senator Cruz has a perfect record of support for Israel in the Senate, and he has made it clear that he believes a strong Israel is America’s key ally and asset in the Middle East. He understands the power relationships in that region and he will put an end to the tensions of the Obama years that have weakened the US-Israel alliance. He is very clearly the most pro-Israel candidate in the race today.