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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

The 2016 Republican presidential candidates compete to out-hawk each other

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Jeb Bush

Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush has been a favorite of neoconservatives since the mid-1990s, when he supported the launching of the Project for the New American Century. Since announcing his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Bush has made several explicit gestures indicating his commitment to continue his brother's track record, including forming a foreign policy advisory team comprised mostly of neoconservative veterans of the George W. Bush administration. He’s also spurred criticism recently for saying that he would have authorized the Iraq War despite “knowing what we know now.”

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio, a Republican Senator from Florida, is a 2016 Republican presidential candidate who has, according to the conservative National Review, “consistently articulated a robust internationalist position closest to that of George W. Bush." From his perch on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, Rubio has pushed for interventionist foreign policies, advocated increased military spending, and strongly opposed the Obama administration's diplomacy with Cuba and Iran. According to reports, Rubio is also a favorite of GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, whose free Israeli paper, Israel Hayom, has been giving rave reviews to his presidential campaign.

Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, notorious for reigning in the rights of workers in his home state, has staked out hawkish positions on foreign policy in advance of his expected run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He has called for the United States to have a “strong presence” in the Middle East, has said he would not rule out U.S. “boots on the ground” in the fight against ISIS, and has said he would “absolutely” reject any nuclear deal with Iran if he becomes president. Walker has also spurred ridicule for saying the “most significant foreign policy decision” of his lifetime was Ronald Reagan’s decision to fire striking air traffic controllers in 1981.

Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz is a Tea Party Republican senator from Texas who recently announced his candidacy for the 2016 Republican Party presidential nomination. Although Cruz has described his foreign policy approach as between “the isolationism of Rand Paul” and the “neoconservatism of John McCain,” when asked by Bloomberg View which foreign policy experts he trusts, he listed three overt militarists: former George W. Bush U.N. ambassador John Bolton, Iran-Contra veteran Elliott Abrams, and former CIA director James Woolsey.

Lindsey Graham

During his speech officially announcing his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) declared that “the world is exploding in terror and violence.” Such hysteria over purported threats to the United States is standard Graham fare, who has also contended that “the world is literally about to blow up” as a result of President Obama’s foreign policy. One of the Senate’s most hawkish members, Graham has long been at the forefront of congressional efforts over the years promoting war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Iran.

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum is a 2016 Republican presidential candidate and former senator from Pennsylvania who champions stridently right-wing positions on social issues and foreign policy. He has recently called for 10,000 U.S. ground troops to be deployed to fight ISIS and has opposed the Iran nuclear negotiations, claiming that Iran wants to “conquer the world.” He has also denounced the Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage as “disrupting the foundation of the world.”

Rick Perry

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who ran a gaffe-riddled presidential bid in 2012, has officially joined the crowded list of candidates seeking the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination. He has reportedly entered the race as a “national-security stalwart,” a label that nearly all the GOP candidates appear to aspire to. He has advocated the use of torture, has called for “providing lethal aid” to Ukraine to use against Russian-backed separatists, and has argued that U.S. ground forces may have to be deployed against ISIS in Iraq.

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee, a former Republican governor of Arkansas and an evangelical pastor, has brought attention to his 2016 GOP presidential campaign by making a series of outlandish claims. He argues that President Obama was “raised in Kenya,” holds that the United States was founded by God, and says that he doesn’t want to live in a United States that “does not fear God because if we don't fear God, nobody will fear us." Huckabee has also urged young Americans not to serve in the military until Obama leaves office. 


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John Bolton, the controversial former U.S. ambassador to the UN and dyed-in the-wool foreign policy hawk, has been selected by President Trump to replace National Security Adviser McMaster, marking a sharp move to the hawkish extreme by the administration.

The Institute for the Study of War is a D.C.-based counterinsurgency think tank that has supported long-term U.S. military intervention in the Greater Middle East, especially Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) has been an outspoken proponent of militarist U.S. foreign polices and the use of torture, aping the views of her father, Dick Cheney.

United against Nuclear Iran is a pressure group that attacks companies doing business in Iran and disseminates alarmist reports about the country’s nuclear program.

Gina Haspel is a CIA officer who was nominated to head the agency by President Donald Trump in March 2018. She first came to prominence because of accusations that she oversaw the torture of prisoners and later destroyed video evidence of that torture.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), President Trump’s nominee for secretary of state to replace Rex Tillerson, is a “tea party” Republican who previously served as director of the CIA.

Richard Goldberg is a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who served as a foreign policy aide to former Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).

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