Sen. Ted Cruz said Wednesday that the Obama administration is failing to protect U.S. national security in the Middle East and is falsely peddling the notion that the threat of Muslim terrorism has faded.
Speaking at the conservative Heritage Foundation, the freshman Texas Republican looked to put his mark on a party that remains divided over foreign affairs, saying President Obama has been “far too hawkish” in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons and “far too dovish” in response to Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
“In my opinion, the president of the United States should stand up and say unequivocally, ‘If Iran continues to proceed toward acquiring nuclear weapons capacity, the U.S. will use overwhelming military force to prevent them from acquiring those weapons,’” the potential 2016 presidential contender said while calling the Iranian nuclear program the “single greatest national security threat to the United States.”
“One of the ironies is that the softer a leader is when dealing with enemies of the United States the more likelihood there is for military conflict. Bullies and tyrants don’t respect weakness or appeasement. In the Arab world, appeasement only encourages more violence,” he said.
Mr. Cruz also said that it is in U.S. national security interest for Congress to give “serious consideration” to “substantially” increasing U.S. military aid to Israel.
The remarks fell on the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and amid an high-profile debate on Capitol Hill over Mr. Obama’s push for a military response against the Syrian regime, which, according to intelligence reports, launched a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 that killed 1,400 people in a Damascus suburb.
Mr. Cruz said U.S. foreign policy should be based on protecting national security, speaking with moral clarity and fighting to win. He dismissed as misguided Mr. Obama’s Syria policy, based primarily on the Assad regime apparently having broached the international taboo against the use of chemical weapons though the U.S. has largely ignored years of far bloodier conventional slaughter in the civil war engulfing the Arab nation.
He said that the administration should respond to news reports that Iraq is allowing Iran to use its airspace to supply the Syrian regime by canceling U.S. aid to Iraq.
He said the U.S. should force a vote in the U.N. Security Council on a resolution condemning the Assad regime and, if Russia and China try to stop it, counter Moscow and Beijing by, respectively, reinstating a missile defense system in Eastern Europe and by approving the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan.
The debate over Syria has highlighted the president’s struggle to make a compelling case to Congress and the ongoing wrestling match within the Republican ranks in the wake of the 2012 election over the use of military force in global conflicts.
Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, came out against a Syria strike Wednesday — putting him at odds with the two top-ranking House Republicans: Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.
“The president’s ill-conceived, half-hearted proposal will do little to help. It will make America look weak, when we need to be strong. It will merely curse the past, when we need to protect the future. For all these reasons, I cannot support it,” Mr. Ryan said.
In the Senate, Mr. Cruz and a number of the party’s rising stars in the Senate — including Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida — are lining up in opposition against the likes of Sens. John McCain of Arizona, the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, who have urged the president to get even more involved in the region.
On Wednesday, Mr. Cruz likened his foreign policy vision to that of former President Ronald Reagan and said his view of the world falls “somewhere in between” those of Mr. Paul and Mr. McCain.