Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) delivers remarks at the Faith & Freedom Coalition "Road to Majority" policy conference in Washington, June 19, 2014.
Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Brown, Cruz focus on the wrong ISIS border

When talking about the Islamic State and border issues, there are plenty of boundaries worth discussing. The border between Iraq and Syria has been deemed irrelevant by ISIS terrorists. The border between Syria and Turkey has become one of the most important areas on the planet, both in terms of refugees and in terms of ISIS growth.
But for some Republicans, those aren’t the borders that really matter right now.
For example, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) recently published a piece on his vision for combating ISIS.
First and foremost, Washington should resolve to make border security a top priority finally, rather than an afterthought, of this plan in light of concerns about potential ISIS activities on our southern border, cited in a Texas Department of Public Safety bulletin reported by Fox News. As long as our border isn’t secure, the government is making it far too easy for terrorists to infiltrate our nation.
And as Greg Sargent noted, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), now running in New Hampshire, launched a new, related message this morning.
In the ad, Brown, who is trailing, accuses Shaheen and Obama of being “confused about the nature of the threat” posed by “radical Islamic terrorists” who are “threatening to cause the collapse of our country.” He then says we must “secure the border.”
I don’t think he means the border between Iraq and Syria.
The fact that some Republicans are hard to take seriously on national security does not come as a surprise. The fact that some strange GOP figures want to use a national-security debate to advance their agenda is even less surprising.
But if you’re eager to engage in a debate about Islamic State terrorists, and you consider Mexico the nation’s “foremost” priority, maybe a career in the Senate isn’t for you.
Speaking of Cruz’s approach to combating ISIS, Peter Beinart did a nice job the other day noting that the right-wing Texan seems to have carved out a counter-terrorism niche all his own. True to form, the Republican senator’s vision seems to combine the worst of all worlds.
Like McCain and Graham, Cruz also wants to kill first and ask questions later. He’s suggested that America “bomb [ISIS] back to the Stone Age.” (The quote echoes General Curtis LeMay’s advice during Vietnam; that turned out well.) At this week’s hearing, Cruz demanded not merely that the U.S. “destroy ISIS not degrade them.” He also demanded that it do so “within 90 days.” When Dempsey said that wasn’t possible, Cruz issued a press release saying the general was wrong.
But while Cruz resembles McCain and Graham in hyping threats and dropping bombs, he morphs into Rand Paul when the subject turns to political engagement overseas. McCain and Graham want to train and arm the Free Syrian Army so that when America bombs ISIS, non-jihadist rebels seize their territory and eventually pressure Bashar al-Assad into a political settlement. Cruz doesn’t. When it comes to Syria’s “moderate” opposition, he’s doubtful that the United States “can tell the good guys from the bad guys.”
That may be true. But most commentators who share Cruz’s skepticism about arming the rebels are skeptical of a bombing campaign too, arguing that it won’t do much good on the ground. Cruz doesn’t care. He wants to pulverize Syria from the air without any effort at political change on the ground.
Cruz is equally unmoved by efforts to improve political conditions in Iraq, “Look,” he told Fox News, in reference to diplomacy, “it’s not our job to be social workers in Iraq and put them all on expanded Medicaid.”