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

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

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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Nikki Haley, Donald Trump’s first U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is known for her lock-step support for Israel and is widely considered to be a future presidential candidate.


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Haim Saban is a media mogul and major donor to the Democratic Party known for his hardline stance on Israel and opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.


Eli Lake is a columnist for Bloomberg View who has a lengthy record of advocating for aggressive U.S. foreign policies towards the Middle East.


Brian Hook is the director of policy planning and senior policy advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and is the head of the Iran Action Group.


Josh Rogin is a journalist known for his support for neoconservative policies and views.


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From the Wires

The contradictions in Donald Trump’s foreign policy create opportunities for both rivals and long-standing (if irritated) US allies to challenge American influence. But Trump’s immediate priority is political survival, and his actions in the international arena are of little concern to his domestic supporters.


While the notion that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic is decades old, it has been bolstered in recent years, by the campaign to add to the definition of anti-Semitism any criticism that singles Israel out and doesn’t apply the same standard to other countries. The bottom line is that this entire effort is designed not to combat anti-Semitism but to silence criticism. 


Short-term thinking, expedience, and a lack of strategic caution has led Washington to train, fund, and support group after group that have turned their guns on American soldiers and civilians.


Trump is not the problem. Think of him instead as a summons to address the real problem, which in a nation ostensibly of, by, and for the people is the collective responsibility of the people themselves. For Americans to shirk that responsibility further will almost surely pave the way for more Trumps — or someone worse — to come.


The United Nations has once again turn into a battleground between the United States and Iran, which are experiencing one of the darkest moments in their bilateral relations.


In many ways, Donald Trump’s bellicosity, his militarism, his hectoring cant about American exceptionalism and national greatness, his bullying of allies—all of it makes him not an opponent of neoconservatism but its apotheosis. Trump is a logical culmination of the Bush era as consolidated by Obama.


Soon after a Saudi-led coalition strike on a bus killed 40 children on August 9, a CENTCOM spokesperson stated to Vox, “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the U.S. sold to them.”


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