On Tuesday, The Hill published an article suggesting that Sen. Ted Cruz, a leading opponent of Obama’s plan for military action in Syria, had shifted his position on the conflict with an eye towards running for President in 2016. The article, by Alexandra Jaffe, insinuates that Cruz has abandoned his previous hawkish views for one that better positions him to contest the GOP nomination. It is a complete misreading of Cruz’s consistent views on the issue.
To build her argument, Jaffe points to a line Sen. Cruz said on the Senate floor back in June:
“We need to be developing right now a clear, practical plan to go in, locate the weapons, secure or destroy them, and then get out. The United States should be firmly in the lead to make sure the job is done right,” Cruz said.
That is not what President Obama is proposing. Obama has called for a “limited,” or in the words of John Kerry “unbelievably small”, military strike with the intention of “punishing” Syrian strong-man Bashar Assad to deter him from using chemical weapons again. Obama’s planned strike would try to “degrade” Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons in the future.
If Obama’s strike were executed, the Syrian regime would still possess stockpiles of chemical weapons. They would still be vulnerable to seizure by the al-Qaeda-backed terrorists who make up the bulk of Syrian rebels opposing Assad. Obama’s action could even weaken the Assad regime to the point that terrorists in the rebel forces had easier access to these weapons.
Cruz’s position on Syria has always been predicated on keeping these weapons out of the hands of terrorists. In an interview on the Sean Hannity show in late August, Cruz said:
With 9 major rebel groups, 7 of them may well have some significant ties to Al Qaida. If Assad is toppled and replaced by a radical Islamist regime, what would be truly dangerous for the United States, for our allies like Israel and Jordan, is for a radical Islamic government to seize control of those chemical weapons and to deploy them against us or our allies. That should be the focus of the President, and as we’ve seen throughout the Middle East that has not been the focus of the President.
[O]ur concern should be those chemical weapons, preventing them from falling into the hands of Hezbollah, preventing them from falling into the hands of Al Qaida, that should be guiding our actions, not expressing some moral outrage from a university facility lounge.
This week, in The Washington Post, Cruz spelled out a situation wherein he would support military action:
Should we in the future have intelligence that al-Qaeda or Hezbollah is on the verge of acquiring chemical weapons or that Iran is nearing a nuclear breakout, I would support aggressive military action to prevent them from acquiring those weapons because the alternative is unacceptable.
The Hill article would have been more correct if it had detailed Cruz’s consistency on Syria, notwithstanding the political calculus of a potential run for President in 2016. That story, however, would hardly be worth Jaffe hitting her keyboard. While Obama’s foreign policy lies tattered, more useful for her to parse the words of Republicans and pull things out of context.