Election 2020

Cruz Foreign Policy Team: Many Views of Islam

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks during a campaign appearance Feb. 29, 2016, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

As frontrunner Donald Trump brings new members into the Republican fold while ostracizing old ones, his chief rival, Ted Cruz, is consciously pursuing a “big tent” when it comes to foreign policy. Cruz released his foreign policy team on Thursday, and while he has been attacked for choosing outspoken critics of Islam, he also picked moderating voices to assemble, as Bloomberg put it, a “team of foreign policy rivals.”

The big name driving progressives off the wall is Frank Gaffney, well known for his belief that President Obama is secretly a follower of MohammedNew York Magazine‘s Eric Levitz called Gaffney “the Joe McCarthy of Islamophobia.” Gaffney first released the poll which led Trump to take his controversial stand against Muslim immigration. Levitz explained that “for Gaffney, Barack Hussein Obama is but the tip of the iceberg — in truth, the Muslim Brotherhood has placed operatives throughout the federal government.” Among these, Gaffney lists Clinton adviser Huma Abedin and tax-cut apostle Grover Norquist.

These claims are beyond the pale, and most conservatives likely do not acknowledge them. There is a grain of truth in Gaffney’s approach, however. Many in the federal government support the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has been linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2014, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) declared the organization a terror group and FBI charts connect it to Hamas.

In addition to Gaffney, Cruz’s foreign policy team includes three others who work for Gaffney’s think tank, the Center for Security Policy: former CIA officers Fred Fleitz and Clare Lopez, and former Army Special Forces Master Sergeant Jim Hanson. Also in this vein is Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the first World Trade Center bombing and a PJ Media columnist. McCarthy published a book arguing that backers of political Islam are seeking to impose Sharia law in America.

But Cruz’s new foreign policy team also includes many who reject Gaffney’s broad view that Muslims who support Sharia by definition believe in a totalitarian ideology at war with America. Former Reagan administration official Michael Ledeen — also a member of Cruz’s team and a PJ Media columnist — explained, “We’re at war with a coalition of radical Islamists and radial secularists. It’s not all one thing, nor is Islam all one thing.”

Next Page: Other Cruz Advisers with More Nuanced Approaches to Islam, What This List Means for the Libertarians backing Cruz.

Jim Talent, a former Missouri senator considered a neoconservative who had previously advised Romney in 2008 and 2012, and who joined the Rubio team first, has now joined Cruz. Also advising Cruz is Mary Habeck, a former staffer on George W. Bush’s national security council and an expert on jihadi organizations, who has vociferously warned against demonizing all Muslims.

Another member of Cruz’s team, Elliott Abrams, helped create Bush’s policy to empower moderate Muslims in the Middle East against radicals. Abrams laid out a very nuanced approach in comments to Bloomberg View:

It’s now 15 years since 9/11, and I think it’s obvious that Muslim citizens in the U.S. and Muslim leaders abroad have an absolutely critical role to play in fighting jihadis and other Muslim extremists. This is partly a battle within Islam that they are going to have [to] fight and win. Alienating these potential allies is the kind of foolish policy that the Obama administration has engaged in when it comes to Arab states that are our allies.

By electing outspoken critics of Islam, as well as those with more nuanced views, Cruz can claim to balance one group with the other. This list of advisers may undermine his semi-libertarian early declarations that America should not engage too much in nation-building and should focus on United States interests first and foremost. Nevertheless, libertarians may still flock to his banner, over a candidate who champions eminent domain and pay-for-play crony capitalism.