A Tea Party split in foreign policy? The feud between Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Texas Senator Ted Cruz is about foreign policy, yes. But there is a political element to their fight as well. Both are jockeying for position in a crowded Republican presidential-candidate field, and Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine has presented the opportunity for the candidates to separate themselves from the pack.
Both are invoking Reagan’s sacred memory to justify their positions, with Cruz criticizing Paul for adopting a non-interventionist stance that he says is encouraging Putin:
“I’m a big fan of Rand Paul. He and I are good friends. But I don’t agree with him on foreign policy,” Cruz said. “I think U.S. leadership is critical in the world. And I agree with him that we should be very reluctant to deploy military force abroad. But I think there is a vital role, just as Ronald Reagan did… The United States has a responsibility to defend our values.” [...]
“A critical reason for Putin’s aggression has been President Obama’s weakness,” Cruz told Karl on “This Week.” “That Putin fears no retribution… [Obama's] policy has been to alienate and abandon our friends and to coddle and appease our enemies.”
“You’d better believe Putin sees in Benghazi four Americans are murdered, the first ambassador killed in service since 1979, and nothing happens,” Cruz added, echoing comments by other Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “You’d better believe that Putin sees that in Syria, Obama draws a red line and ignores the red line. You’d better believe that Putin sees all over the world.”
Paul is calling out Cruz for misrepresenting what Reagan’s policies were, and called for a halt in bellicose rhetoric, saying, “What we don’t need right now is politicians who have never seen war talking tough for the sake of their political careers” — a clear slap at Cruz.
Paul also reminded readers in a Breitbart op-ed about what Reagan really stood for:
Reagan clearly believed in a strong national defense and in “Peace through Strength.” He stood up to the Soviet Union, and he led a world that pushed back against Communism.
But Reagan also believed in diplomacy and demonstrated a reasoned approach to our nuclear negotiations with the Soviets. Reagan’s shrewd diplomacy would eventually lessen the nuclear arsenals of both countries.
Many forget today that Reagan’s decision to meet with Mikhail Gorbachev was harshly criticized by the Republican hawks of his time, some of whom would even call Reagan an appeaser. In the Middle East, Reagan strategically pulled back our forces after the tragedy in Lebanon in 1983 that killed 241 Marines, realizing the cost of American lives was too great for the mission.
Without a clearly defined mission, exit strategy or acceptable rationale for risking soldiers lives, Reagan possessed the leadership to reassess and readjust.
You’ve read the commentary from pundits and columnists. Now it’s your turn to sound off. Whose foreign policy views are more like Ronald Reagan’s?
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