Ted Cruz Embodies the Degeneration of Foreign-Policy Conservatism

 Think nothing could be worse than a Trump presidency? Think again.

Source: Huff Post

Author: Andrew J. Bacevich

Emphasis Mine

W hen it comes to US foreign policy, what exactly does it mean to be a conservative?

Before the Vietnam War, conservatism in foreign policy had less to do with principles than with temperament. As president, Dwight Eisenhower represented the very embodiment of that temperament. From his days as a soldier, Ike knew war well enough to treat it warily. Raised in the heartland, he was something of a prairie nationalist, with an aversion to crusades and a limited appetite for risk. This did not imply passivity, and Eisenhower made his fair share of lamentable mistakes—instigating coups in Guatemala and Iran, initiating the US commitment to South Vietnam, and overreacting to the Cuban Revolution, among them. Yet his overall approach to the business of statecraft emphasized prudence and even circumspection. Say what you will about US foreign policy in the 1950s, it could have been much worse. Indeed, Ike’s immediate successors, disdaining his stewardship, wasted little time in demonstrating this point, most disastrously in Vietnam.

In the wake of the war in Vietnam and as a direct consequence of the defeat the United States suffered there, conservative thinking about foreign policy acquired a pronounced ideological edge. By denouncing the Evil Empire and scrubbing the American past clean of ambiguity, Ronald Reagan made himself a favorite on the right. Among those succumbing to the allure of the Great Communicator, Reagan’s willingness to condemn adversaries as unabashedly wicked seemed to restore to US policy the moral clarity it had lost during the 1960s. Even so, Reagan’s rhetoric did not necessarily translate into action. While he might demand that Mikhail Gorbachev “tear down this wall,” nowhere in that demand was there any implication that if the Soviet leader refused to comply, Reagan himself would do the bulldozing.

Only after 9/11 did Manichaeism become the explicit basis for action. When it came to rhetorical flourishes, George W. Bush outdid Reagan, setting his sights on destroying a 21st-century Axis of Evil en route to forcing large chunks of the Islamic world into compliance with his Freedom Agenda. Unlike Ike—no longer in the pantheon of conservative heroes—Bush knew next to nothing about war. Perhaps for that very reason, he evinced supreme confidence in his ability to put America’s matchless military to work.

The defining features of American conservatism now became hubris and vainglory. Prudence? That was for wusses. Circumspection? A euphemism for cowardice.

Not everyone on the right climbed aboard the Bush bandwagon. But the great majority did, led by the most fervent crusaders—commonly known as neoconservatives—who promptly set out to expel dissenters. Writing in National Review in March 2003, with the US invasion of Iraq just under way, David Frum announced the purge, declaring that conservatives daring to oppose the Iraq War were treasonous. “They deny and excuse terror,” Frum charged. “They publicize wild conspiracy theories.” Some even “yearn for the victory of their nation’s enemies.” No alternative existed but to banish them from the conservative movement altogether. “In a time of danger, they have turned their backs on their country. Now we turn our backs on them.”

Frum’s “we” promptly led the United States into a debacle of monumental proportions, its mournful consequences continuing to mount even today. As a direct consequence of Operation Iraqi Freedom, a name chosen without a trace of irony, the right’s claim to foresight and wisdom in the management of national security affairs took a major hit. Names such as Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Feith now became bywords for arrogant incompetence.

Few readers of this magazine will view with regret the blow to their reputations sustained by the architects of the Iraq War. Yet the disaster over which they presided has produced a further perversion in what passes for an ostensibly conservative approach to foreign policy. Rather than inspiring a return to prudence and circumspection, the failures and frustrations endured in Iraq and other post-9/11 military campaigns now find expression in compulsive truculence.

As the embodiment of this truculence, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, today finding favor among Republicans desperate to derail Donald Trump’s bid for the GOP nomination, stands alone. From the very outset of his candidacy, Cruz has depicted himself as the one genuinely principled conservative in the race. And in comparison to Trump, who is ideologically sui generis, Cruz does qualify as something of a conservative. When it comes to foreign policy, however, Cruz offers not principles but—like Trump himself—raw pugnacity.

Cruz has gone out of his way to deride the pretensions of democracy promoters, mocking “crazy neocon invade-every-country-on-earth” types wanting to “send our kids to die in the Middle East.” On the stump, Cruz advertises himself as Reagan’s one-and-only true heir. As such, he endorses “the clarity of Reagan’s four most important words: ‘We win, they lose.’” Upon closer examination, Cruz is actually advocating something quite different: “We win, they lose, then we walk away.” The key to “winning” is to unleash American military might. “If I am elected president, we will utterly destroy ISIS,” Cruz vows. “We won’t weaken them. We won’t degrade them. We will utterly destroy them. We will carpet-bomb them into oblivion…. We will do everything necessary so that every militant on the face of the earth will know…if you wage jihad and declare war on America, you are signing your death warrant.”

Yet rather than Reaganesque, Cruz’s prescription for dealing with Islamist radicalism represents a throwback to bomb-them-back-to-the-Stone-Age precepts pioneered by Gen. Curtis LeMay and endorsed by the likes of Barry Goldwater back when obliteration was in fashion. The embryonic Cruz Doctrine offers an approximation of total war. “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out!” he promises with evident enthusiasm.

Nowhere, however, does his outlook take into account costs, whether human, fiscal, or moral. Nor does it weigh the second-order consequences of, say, rendering large parts of Iraq and Syria a smoking ruin or of killing large numbers of noncombatants through campaigns of indiscriminate bombing. In essence, Cruz sees force as a way to circumvent history—a prospect that resonates with Americans annoyed by history’s stubborn complexities.

A similar logic—if we can call it that—is at play in Cruz’s promise on “day one” of his presidency to “rip to shreds” the Iran nuclear agreement. He has compared the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to the “Munich Deal of 1938, allowing homicidal maniacs to acquire weapons of mass murder.” Apart from causing consternation among the several other signatories to the agreement—the other permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany—US withdrawal would accomplish nothing of substance. Even so, Cruz’s insistence that he will do so—begging the question then what?assures his supporters that he, like they, inhabits a world in which good guys are pitted against bad guys. In such a world, diplomacy simply plays into the hands of the enemy. “We stop the bad guys by using our guns,” Cruz insists, not by talking to them. His implied willingness to use guns to stop the bad guys in Tehran is unmistakable.

Not least among Cruz’s objections to the JCPOA is that it represents a “fundamental betrayal” of Israel, a country to which he professes great devotion. Cruz’s antagonism toward evildoers finds its counterpart in his deference toward Israel. More specifically, Cruz expresses unabashed admiration for the current head of the Israeli government, conferring on Benjamin Netanyahu the supreme conservative accolade of being “Churchillian.”

In reality, the comparison is an odd one. As a statesman, the quality setting Churchill apart was imagination, which he possessed in abundance—as prime minister, he was perpetually hatching wild schemes. Netanyahu’s defining characteristic is his absolute dearth of imagination; he is a willing prisoner of the status quo. Still, by paying homage to the Israeli leader—more broadly aligning himself with the eye-for-a-tooth Israeli approach to security policy—Cruz affirms his own bellicosity. Not surprisingly, Cruz promises to invite Netanyahu to attend his first State of the Union address. Going a step further, he has already previewed the greetings he will employ on the occasion: “Mr. Prime Minister, let me say, I enjoyed seeing you just recently at the grand opening of the new American Embassy in Jerusalem, the once and eternal capital of Israel.” Again, the question left hanging is unanswered: Then what? Whether Cruz possesses the capacity even to recognize the existence of such questions appears doubtful. All that matters is to project an attitude of toughness.

So too with his recently announced team of foreign-policy advisers, consisting in large part of certifiable loonies, Islamophobes, and zealots keen to wage the Christian equivalent of global jihad. Members of the team broadly share the candidate’s own assessment of “Islamic supremacism,” whose adherents are intent on forcing the world to “submit to their form of Islam or die.”

Representative of this crew as a whole is Michael Ledeen, unrepentant proponent of preventive war. Preliminary efforts to destroy the Axis of Evil have not fared well. Ledeen’s prescription? Broaden the problem set and double down. “We now face a more potent Axis of Evil,” he writes, one that incorporates “Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and other countries, and terrorist groups including al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the Islamic State.” This new axis “includes Sunni and Shi’ite radical Muslims, Communists and other radical leftists, and nationalistic secular tyrants.” Together, they have “succeeded in wrecking hopes for a peaceful world.” The only way to eliminate this all-encompassing threat is through relentless and implacable war, from which, Ledeen concludes, there is “no escape.”

Under no plausible definition of the term does Ledeen qualify as even remotely conservative. That the leading “conservative” candidate for the GOP nomination has recruited such a wacko to advise him is itself evidence of how unhinged the American political right has become.

Think nothing could be worse than a Trump presidency? Think again.

Andrew J. Bacevich Andrew J. Bacevich is professor emeritus of history and international relations at Boston University.

See:http://www.thenation.com/article/ted-cruz-embodies-the-degeneration-of-foreign-policy-conservatism/

Reagan’s Chickens Home to Roost?

Source: RSN

Author: William Boardman

The guilty get some breathing room, but not safety yet

Former members of the Reagan administration are breathing easier, now that they are somewhat less likely to face criminal charges for their part in the Guatemalan genocide of 1982-1983, supported by Reagan policies.

The threat that former officials might be held accountable for genocidal policies of the Reagan administration increased on May 10, when a Guatemalan lower court convicted the country’s former president, General Efrain Rios Montt, 86, of genocide and crimes against humanity for his part in the killing of thousands of Guatemalan civilians.

Rios Montt’s conviction and sentence included an order by Judge Iris Yassmin Barrios to Attorney General Paz Y Paz to further investigate everyone else involved in Rios Montt’s crimes, an investigation that would include many Guatemalans including the country’s current president, as well as U.S. military advisors, the CIA and other American agents, and Washington officials like Elliott Abrams and others directly involved in supporting the Guatemalan governmental genocide.

But this threat of prosecution for accessories and accomplices to genocide didn’t last long, as Guatemala’s highest court, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala, ruled by a vote of 3-2 on May 20 that the lower court’s proceedings going back to April 19 were dismissed, thus annulling the verdict.

The Genocidal General’s Trial May Yet Begin Again

But the Constitutional Court ruling also allows the trial to resume at some undetermined time in the future. The dismissal sets the trial back to April 19, when a judge who had heard earlier but separate proceedings relating to Rios Montt asserted jurisdiction over the continuing trial that had started a month earlier. Judge Barrios overruled the prior judge supported by Attorney General Paz Y Pay, who said his claim was unlawful.

The jurisdictional dispute proceeded to the Constitutional Court while Rios Montt’s trial continued to its unsurprising conviction, given the weight of the evidence against him and his administration.

Rios Montt came to power in 1982 through a military coup, after he had lost a democratic election for the second time, claiming massive fraud both in 1974 and 1982. Between elections, in 1978, Rios Montt had left the Catholic Church and become a minister in the evangelical/Pentecostal Church of the Word, based in California. His friends and supporters included Rev. Jerry Falwell, Rev. Pat Robertson, and others connected with the evangelical movement that helped elect Ronald Reagan president in 1980.

Rios Montt would be the American-supported dictator of Guatemala for only 17 months, before he fell to another military coup. But in that time he was responsible for government forces that killed more than 1,700 people, mostly indigenous Mayans, and also tortured, raped, kidnapped, and brutalized thousands more – for which he was found guilty on May 10.

Ronald Reagan and His Administration Supported Gen. Rios Montt

President Reagan praised Rios Montt for his anticommunism and claimed that human rights were improving under his rule, while human rights organizations condemned the general and the army. Amnesty International estimated that Rios Montt’s forced killed more than 10,000 rural Guatemalans from March to August 1982, and drove more than 100,000 from their homes.

Reagan evaded Congressional oversight in order to provide Rios Montt with millions of dollars of military aid. When Reagan and the general met in Honduras in December 1982, Reagan spoke warmly of him: “I know that President Rios Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment. I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice. My administration will do all it can to support his progressive efforts.”

“The next day,” the London Review of Books reported in 2004, “one of Guatemala’s elite platoons entered a jungle village called Las Dos Erres and killed 162 of its inhabitants, 67 of them children.” The report continued:

Soldiers grabbed babies and toddlers by their legs, swung them in the air, and smashed their heads against a wall. Older children and adults were forced to kneel at the edge of a well, where a single blow from a sledgehammer sent them plummeting below. The platoon then raped a selection of women and girls it had saved for last, pummelling their stomachs in order to force the pregnant among them to miscarry.

They tossed the women into the well and filled it with dirt, burying an unlucky few alive. The only traces of the bodies later visitors would find were blood on the walls and placentas and umbilical cords on the ground.

On another occasion, Reagan claimed that the dictator was getting a “bum rap.”

In 1983, then assistant secretary of state Elliott Abrams told PBS, “the amount of killing of innocent civilians is being reduced step by step…. We think that kind of progress needs to be rewarded and encouraged.”

Guatemalans Have Struggled for Decades to Get Justice

The currently interrupted trial is part of a judicial process that began in 2001, with a ruling by the Constitutional Court on March 21, exposing Rios Montt and others of the ruling party to prosecution for corruption. The next day, two grenades were thrown in the yard of Judge Iris Yassmin Barrios. Three days later, the head of the Constitutional Court, Judge Conchita Mazariegos, had shots fired at her house.

The criminal role of the United States in Guatemala has continued at least since 1954, when the Eisenhower administration engineered a CIA-backed coup d’etat against the country’s elected president.

American reporting on the Rios Montt trial and America’s role in genocide in Central America goes largely unreported in the United States. According to FAIR, none of the three major TV networks have mentioned the trial since it began. Perhaps the most detailed coverage has come from DemocracyNOW, which summed up the present situation this way:

In the run-up to its latest decision to overturn, the court had come under heavy lobbying from Rios Montt supporters, including Guatemala’s powerful business association, CACIF. Rios Montt remains in a military hospital where he was admitted last week. His legal status is now up in the air. He will likely be released into house arrest, and it is unclear when or if he will return to court.

For the moment, that leaves surviving Reagan administration officials beyond the reach of Guatemalan law and international law.

In 1998, Bishop Juan Gerardi, head of the human rights commission uncovering the truth of the disappearances associated with the military, including Rios Montt, was assassinated. His successor is Catholic bishop Mario Enrique Rios Montt, the convicted general’s brother. The trial and conviction of Bishop Gerardi’s killers in 2001 was the first time members of the military were tried in a civilian court.

Emphasis Mine

See: :http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/17558-reagans-chickens-home-to-roost