As their reaction to the Iran nuclear agreement shows, the GOP presidential candidates have similarly belligerent attitudes on international issues.
"Virtually all of them appear to have embraced something akin to the neoconservative worldview, stressing unilateralism and militarism,” University of San Francisco Professor Stephen Zunes tells me.
“As President, I will stand with Israel and keep all options on the table, including military force, to topple the terrorist Iranian regime and defeat the evil forces of radical Islam,” Mike Huckabee said.
“It’s a folly, the idea of negotiating with a government that continues to call for death to America, death to Israel,” Rick Santorum stated.
So bellicose is the new crop of Republican presidential contenders that Jeb Bush found it necessary to distance himself from his old family friend and policy adviser, former Secretary of State James Baker, after Baker spoke before J Street, an organization that advocates a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The candidates’ aggressiveness emerges frequently.
“People ask what should our strategy be on global jihadists and terrorists, I refer them to the movie Taken, ” Senator Marco Rubio has stated. “We will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you.”
Senator Ted Cruz topped this by injecting a touch of Muslim-baiting.
“We saw the ugly face of Islamic terrorism in my home state of Texas in Garland where two jihadists came to commit murder,” he said. “Thankfully, one police officer helped them meet their virgins.”
All this posturing may be an attempt to fill empty space, since, with a couple of exceptions, the candidates lack foreign policy credentials and expertise. This has resulted in some notable gaffes. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal repeated a Fox falsehood (even after a network retraction) that some cities in Britain had “no go” zones where non-Muslims couldn’t enter. And Scott Walker seems to think that taking on Wisconsin protesters is similar to battling ISIS.
To prep the candidates, various outfits have been established, such as the John Hay Initiative, with which Mitt Romney and his associates are deeply involved.
The conservative Weekly Standard reports that the organization has provided policy advisers to Walker and Marco Rubio and has worked with the Bush, Carly Fiorina, and Cruz campaigns. The Initiative actually helped draft a key Chris Christie speech.
Another source from which Republican candidates will be getting advice is Bush Administration uberhawk John Bolton, who is setting up a PAC, a SuperPAC, and a foundation for this purpose.
“What I’m going to try to do is push all the candidates toward sound national security policies and also push them to articulate and express themselves with foreign policy, so they feel comfortable with the issues so they’re expanding their thinking so we can hear them go through the process of showing that they’re qualified to sit behind the big desk and make life-and-death decisions,” Bolton told the International Business Times. “They’re going to need to do that to get ready to debate Hillary Clinton if she’s the nominee.”
A candidate who would be receptive to Bolton’s message is Jeb Bush. His advisers are heavily drawn from the ranks of his older brother's administration.
Among these are Paul Wolfowitz, one of the main architects of the Iraq War, and Michael Chertoff, homeland security in charge under Bush II and one of the key drafters of the Patriot Act.
Not that the other candidates are much better. Rubio, a contender with more expertise on international issues than most of his rivals, is a good example. A recent analysis in U.S. News & World Report of his call for “a new American century” shows how his foreign policy proposals “openly embrace the ideas that led to the most disastrous decade in U.S. foreign policy history.”
There are a lot of candidates in contention for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. But, with the partial exception of Rand Paul, they’re pushing the same, bad ideas.
Amitabh Pal is The Progressive's managing editor.