A Heritage Foundation Event: Annual Helms Lecture
September 11, 2013
A Heritage Foundation Event: Annual Helms Lecture- The Vital Role of the Senate in Foreign Policy
In the spirit of the late Senator Jesse Helms, the Heritage Foundation invited Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to discuss the role he and other senators play in determining the United State’s foreign policy. Senator Cruz began by pointing out that the Senate has the primary duty of representing their constituents; he pointed to the recent public debate surrounding U.S. engagement in Syria as a clear example of senators listening to their constituents when deciding policy. Along with the duties they owe their constituents the Senator also added that he has and his other fellow senators have an obligation to follow three core principles when deciding foreign policy. Firstly, a senator’s decision must always be focused on protecting and progressing national interests; secondly, their decision must speak with clear moral authority; lastly, they must vote with the intent to win and act decisively. With these duties in mind the Senator put into focus the current state of American foreign affairs.
Senator Cruz began by weighing in on the debate surrounding how the U.S. should react to the crisis in Syria. Sen. Cruz, applauded President Obama for seeking the decision from Congress and challenged the Administration’s strategy, claiming that it failed to fulfill any of his core principles in deciding foreign policy. First, it is not the U.S.’s responsibility to uphold, “global norms,” the ultimate focus of foreign policy should be on pursuing national interests. Sen. Cruz also cited his third principle when offering criticism to the Administration’s current intention to only carry out a small-scale strike; Cruz stated the U.S. should act decisively and not in “sending statements.” Cruz went on to state that a small-scale strike could endanger the U.S. and its allies. Claiming that seven of the nine major opposition groups have ties to Al Qaeda, the Senator warned that a small-scale strike could allow these terrorist affiliates to gain territory and potentially acquire weapons of mass destruction. Sen. Cruz claimed the Administration lacks a clear objective and proper focus; their attention should be more geared to pursuing national interests.
Senator Cruz went on to argue that the Obama Administration’s diplomatic exchanges with Russia and China, both at the UN and in direct talks, have been equally lacking in focus and conviction. Although Sen. Cruz celebrated President Putin’s plan to claim and disassemble Syria’s chemical stockpile he also offered doubts that Putin is fully committed to the proposal and is not just hoping to stall western lead efforts. In the spirit of his own core principles Sen. Cruz does not expect Russia and China to act in anything but their own national interests. Cruz argued that only by demonstrating power and conviction can the U.S. sway China and Russia to cooperate with U.S. interests. In the past the U.S. scrapped plans to install missile defense systems in Eastern Europe and to sell F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, in efforts to ease relations with Russia and China, Cruz suggested that the U.S. should consider reauthorizing these deals, arguing that they would both fuel the economy and put pressure on Russia and China to comply with U.S. policies. Sen. Cruz ended by reiterating the need to remain focused on national interest, the clear moral objective, and maintain the conviction to win and achieve the nation’s goal.
The Senator concluded by voicing his admiration for both Senator Helm and President Ronald Reagan. Citing their courage, passion, and sometimes bluntness, Sen. Cruz praised the way in which they conducted policy, championing them as examples for Congress and the Obama Administration to follow.