Ted Cruz, September 9, 2013 on proposed air strikes by President Obama: Why I’ll vote no on Syria strike.
First, Assad’s actions, however deplorable, are not a direct threat to U.S. national security. Many bad actors on the world stage have, tragically, oppressed and killed their citizens, even using chemical weapons to do so. Unilaterally avenging humanitarian disaster, however, is well outside the traditional scope of U.S. military action.
Second, just because Assad is a murderous thug does not mean that the rebels opposing him are necessarily better. As of May, seven of the nine major rebel groups appeared to have significant ties to Islamists, some of whom may have links to al-Qaeda and other terrorists. Their presence and power have only increased, according to media reports. We should never give weapons to people who hate us, and the United States should not support or arm al-Qaeda terrorists.
Third, the potential for escalation is immense. Syria is in the midst of a sectarian civil war, born of centuries-old animosities. We have no clear ally in this Sunni-Shiite conflict, and any “limited” and “proportional” strike could quickly get out of control, imperiling our allies and forcing us into the civil war.
The president and his secretary of state have repeatedly said that Assad’s use of chemical weapons violates an “international norm.” They insist it is critical that we send a “message” to Assad that his behavior is unacceptable. But it is not the job of U.S. troops to police international norms or to send messages. Our men and women in uniform have signed up to defend America.
That was Ted Cruz from 2013. I agreed with his reasoning then and I still agree with it now. Clear-eyed, principled, and well said. You can see why someone might like that Ted Cruz.
Cruz, however, is moderating his tone — now that we have a nominally Republican president who actually did commit an unconstitutional act of war against a foreign power (as Obama later did in Libya). Here is Cruz’s latest statement:
Much more deferential. What has changed? Only the president. Nothing more.
Trump wants to be perceived as a strongman. That means (among other things) sudden, ill-considered acts that have ramifications he hasn’t thought about. This is what folks like me warned against. If Donald Trump wants to be the toughest guy in the room, let him do it on his own and back it up with his tiny fists. He ought not use America’s military to make up for his own inadequacies. I’ll leave you with a few tweets that make the sort of clear statement Ted Cruz ought to have made — and still could make.
[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]