NSN Executive Director John Bradshaw on Ted Cruz

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NSN Executive Director John Bradshaw on Ted Cruz

Cruz embraces the dark side of Reagan’s legacy

By John Bradshaw, NSN Executive Director
The Hill | Feb. 9, 2016

Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) continuing infatuation with dictators reflects a long and dangerous tradition among conservative politicians. Cruz has recently expressed his admiration for Egypt’s leader Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s hardline rule, saying that while al-Sisi “may not be a champion of democracy” he has kept the Muslim Brotherhood in line. He has also defended the legitimacy of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, pined for the days when Muammar Qaddafi ruled Libya, and regretted the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Cruz justifies his endorsement of these odious regimes by claiming that they are a bulwark against terrorism.

Substitute “communism” for “terrorism” and Cruz’s formulation becomes indistinguishable from Ronald Reagan’s rationale for supporting a long list of authoritarian regimes around the world in the 1980s. Of course, it was Reagan’s eventual U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick who was the godmother of the authoritarian embrace in her famous 1979 piece “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” which first brought her to Reagan’s attention. Kirkpatrick argued that the U.S. should work with repressive regimes to combat communism because autocracies could evolve into democracies while totalitarian communist regimes were incapable of that kind of evolution. Reagan seized on this theory – conveniently in line with his own ideological prejudices – and used it to validate his support for abusive regimes in countries from Chile to South Africa to the Philippines and elsewhere. Those regimes and their authoritarian rulers are all long gone, of course, as is the incapable-of-change Soviet Union. Nonetheless, the appeal of authoritarianism remains for politicians like Cruz with an affinity for black and white solutions and a disdain for the grays of foreign policy.

Cruz defends his embrace of dictators by claiming that “if you topple a stable ruler, [you] hand [the country] over to radical Islamic terrorists.” This elevation of “stability” above all other values led Reagan to cozy up to violators of human rights and democratic norms like Ferdinand Marcos and Augusto Pinochet. For Cruz, it leads him to see Muammar Qaddafi as having been an “ally against terrorism” and to advocate for Assad’s regime to remain in power. In this view, all crimes and abuse can be overlooked if the dictator in question is seen as a help in the fight on terrorism.

Even if this approach weren’t morally repugnant, it’s clear that it does not yield the expected results. Authoritarian regimes do not make good allies in the long run.

Read the full article on The Hill here.

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