Two weeks ago, after the CNBC GOP presidential debate, I predicted that the GOP presidential race would become a contest between Ted Cruz, the owner of the movement conservative lane and Marco Rubio, the winner of the center-right lane post (http://politickernj.com/2015/10/abreakthrough-night-for-ted-cruz/). Today, one day after the Fox Business Network Milwaukee GOP debate, it appears that there are many pundits who now have my same outlook on this contest.
The Cruz-Rubio race will be distinguished by a sharp foreign policy distinction: Ted Cruz is a Reaganite, and Marco Rubio is a Neocon. Neither Cruz nor Rubio is an isolationist like Rand Paul. The philosophies of Cruz and Rubio as to when to intervene abroad, however, are totally different.
On foreign policy, Ronald Reagan’s administration was distinguished by 1) the rebuilding of our national defense; and 2) foreign interventions and alliances only when necessary to preserve, protect, and advance our national interests. In short, Reagan was a highly successful practitioner of Realpolitik.
By contrast, the Neocons, who were prominent in foreign policy making in the administration of George W. Bush, are motivated not primarily by strict national interest concerns, but instead by a desire for a crusade to spread democracy throughout the world. Nation building is a major tool in the implementation of Neocon foreign policy. The Neocon guidepost is Woodrow Wilson, not Ronald Reagan.
Ted Cruz has consistently emphasized his embrace of Reaganite foreign policy. In doing so, he has emphasized what may be defined as the three Reaganite foreign policy postulates:
First, unlike the neocons, Reagan only believed in intervening where a direct American interest was at stake.
Second, Reagan would never make a show of force unless he was prepared to use force.
Third, foreign interventions should be executed decisively, with a rapid exit strategy to be implemented once the mission was accomplished.
The ultimate outcome of Reaganite foreign policy was America’s victory in the Cold War against the former Soviet Union. The denouement of Neocon foreign policy was the quagmire of the second Iraq War.
In a contest for the GOP presidential nomination, Ronald Reagan would defeat Woodrow Wilson easily. And I have little doubt that Reaganite Ted Cruz will triumph over Wilsonian Neocon Marco Rubio for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.