Ted Cruz is intellectually arrogant, like Ronald Reagan. The difference is that Reagan masked his arrogance with self-deprecating humor. Sen. Cruz does a Reagan impression that would do a nightclub comedian proud, but he doesn’t have Reagan’s easy and spontaneous humor.
One doesn’t think of Reagan as arrogant, but he was in fact the most arrogant leader we have had since Lincoln. He ignored the whole of the foreign policy establishment in his conviction that America stood to win the Cold War and bring down Communism. Then as now, the foreign policy establishment resembled Jonathan Swift’s scientists on the floating island of Laputa, treading perilously close to the edge with noses in the air.
Sen. Cruz is authentically bright, sufficiently so for the liberal Alan Dershowitz to declare that he was the best student he had ever had at Harvard’s Law School. The conservative legal theorist Robert P. George, who taught Cruz at Princeton, says the same thing. He’s so smart that he is not the least impressed by the conservative foreign policy establishment.
That’s what qualifies Ted Cruz for the presidency. Among the Republican candidates, Cruz is the only one to state plainly that we stayed too long in Iraq and erred in trying to turn it into Switzerland. (I exclude Rand Paul, who is a dumb rube isolationist of the old school and unqualified for national office.) Contrast this to Jeb Bush, who thinks we didn’t stay long enough. Cruz still has some things to learn, to be sure. Sending arms to Ukraine, as he proposes, is pointless. Russian leader Vladimir Putin wants to keep Ukraine in civil war indefinitely, and will match whatever we send in order to do so. Putin wants revenge for the West’s effort to break Ukraine out of the Russian sphere, and leaving the West with a bloody, bankrupt, ungovernable mess on its doorstep is his best move. As Prof. Angelo Codevilla told a Claremont Institute gathering last October, the way to frustrate Putin is to let him keep the Russian-majority Eastern Ukraine, a rust-bucket and money pit of no value to the West; the Western part of Ukraine would then be Catholic and pro-Western.
Sixteen years of George W. Bush and Barack Obama will leave the next president with a different world: a new Sino-Russian entente directed against the US, and chaos in most of the Middle East. Both are the consequence of foreign policy utopianism. We destroyed the century-long balance of power in Iraq and Syria by forcing majority rule in Iraq, and stood godfather to a perpetual Sunni-Shi’ite civil war. We tried to flip Ukraine to the West, and Putin allied with China. We have scored nothing but own-goals. We are spending a trillion and a half dollar on the Edsel of the air, the F-35, and have allowed China to narrow the technology gap that once made the United States the dominant superpower.
The foreign policy establishment of both parties agrees that it is America’s mission to remake the world in its own image, although the liberal Wilsonian and the neo-conservative Republican versions of this utopia have minor differences. We need a president arrogant enough to ignore the whole pack of them, just like Reagan did. That requires arrogance more than any other quality.
Things looked bad when Ronald Reagan came into office. Most of the intellectual elite in Europe as well as the U.S. thought that Russia would win the Cold War. Of course, Reagan had one gigantic advantage: the U.S. was the only venue in the world where an entrepreneur could raise money for disruptive new technologies. The talent of the world came to America, while Russia and China remained paralyzed by Communism and Europe remained moribund. That’s not true today: China and other Asian countries are innovating, in some cases faster than we are. If you don’t believe me, visit the Science Park in Shenzhen where Tencent and other Chinese computer firms have facilities. The next president will have a much tougher mission. Sen. Cruz is the only candidate who is tough, smart and arrogant enough to do the job.
Marco Rubio is a bright and personable young man with an attractive message, but he is callow enough to think that Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer are foreign policy sages. Rubio speaks eloquently of his support for Israel, but a great deal of what he proposes will damage Israeli interests. For the past ten years, Russia has told us that it would hurt us in Iran in retaliation for Western efforts to get control of Ukraine. Russia is threatening to give Iran sophisticated air-defense systems; if it wants to, Russia can create a huge amount of trouble for us in Iran. America’s stupidity in Ukraine turns Israel into collateral damage; every Israeli I know thinks that American policy toward Ukraine is crazy.
Scott Walker is a terrific governor and an attractive candidate, but he has no foreign policy experience–unlike Reagan, who did a weekly foreign policy radio broadcast for a decade, and did his own research. Walker could persuade me that he knows what he’s doing, but I haven’t heard much from him yet. Foreign policy is too important for the next administration for us to elect a president who needs on-the-job training.