The Washington Post

Ted Cruz: I’m ‘somewhere in between’ McCain and Paul on foreign policy

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said Wednesday he considers his views on foreign policy to be "somewhere in between" the poles of libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and hawkish GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.).

(David J. Phillip/AP) (David J. Phillip/AP)

"I agree with Rand Paul that we should not intervene militarily in Syria, because it's not in defense of our U.S. national security interests," said Cruz during a question-and-answer session following a speech at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

But, Cruz added, he also agrees "with John McCain that if Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons that we should intervene militarily to prevent it from acquiring those weapons. Why? Because it is in the vital national security interest of the United States."

Paul and McCain/Graham are on opposite ends of the foreign policy spectrum, leaving lots of room in between.

There are three principles that should guide U.S. foreign policy, Cruz said: "Number one, we should focus directly on protecting U.S. national security and the interests of the United States of America. Number two, we should speak with moral clarity. And number three, we should always fight to win."

In his speech, Cruz reiterated his opposition to a military strike against the Syrian government, which he detailed in Washington Post op-ed earlier this week. While he praised President Obama for consulting Congress on the matter, he also criticized the president's approach to foreign policy, charging that he's too focused on international standards and not enough on U.S. national security.

"In my view, President Obama is both too hawkish and too dovish at the same time," Cruz said. "Why is that? He is too hawkish, too willing to use U.S. military might in defense of international norms in Syria in a way that is not directed at protecting our national security. ... And yet simultaneously is far too dovish when it comes to standing up and defending our national security interests."

Cruz said it was wise for Obama to to ask for Congress to hold off on voting on a military strike against Syria. But he expressed some skepticism that Russia's alternate proposal for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons will hold up.

"If the outcome of this offer is [Syrian President] Assad giving up his chemical weapons, then that would be a wonderful outcome," Cruz said. But, he added, "If you look at [Russian President] Putin's prior conduct, there is very little reason to have a high level of confidence that this is anything more than a delay tactic or a propaganda tactic."

Cruz, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he has attended classified briefings on Syria hosted by the Obama administration. He said that while he has no reason to "doubt the veracity" of the administration officials who informed him they are certain Assad used chemical weapons, he has "not directly seen the intelligence that forms the foundation for that assessment."

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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