MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

What might a DeSantis foreign policy look like? – Responsible Statecraft

Posted by M. C. on November 22, 2022

DeSantis’ record doesn’t offer much evidence that he has questioned any of the Republican Party’s hawkish positions,

https://responsiblestatecraft.org/2022/11/21/what-might-a-desantis-foreign-policy-look-like/

Written by
Daniel Larison

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has become one of the main challengers to Donald Trump for leadership of the Republican Party in the wake of his landslide reelection victory last week over Democratic candidate Charlie Crist. 

While DeSantis is best known nationally for controversies over Covid and culture war battles, he has a foreign policy record from his years in Congress and even during his tenure as governor that also merits closer scrutiny. If he seeks the Republican nomination for president, as many now expect he will, voters should be aware of the foreign policy worldview that he brings with him. 

Before he left the House for Tallahassee, DeSantis established himself as a vocal critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy with an emphasis on attacking U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran and Cuba. His three terms in the House overlapped with Obama’s major initiatives of negotiating the nuclear deal with Iran and restoring normal relations with Cuba, and like the rest of his party DeSantis was hostile to both policies. 

The hardline positions that DeSantis has taken on issues relating to Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela are not surprising given Florida politics, and they have aligned him closely with Florida’s hawkish Sen. Marco Rubio and fellow Iraq war veteran Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

During the original debate over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), DeSantis was an early and vocal opponent of an agreement with Iran. He co-authored a July 2015 op-ed in Time with Tom Cotton outlining the usual hawkish objections to the deal. Like most critics of the agreement, they misrepresented what it would do and exaggerated the benefits Iran would receive from sanctions relief. The op-ed was long on outrage and short on offering any serious alternative to diplomacy to resolve the nuclear issue. 

DeSantis and Cotton also indulged in rather hysterical threat inflation about Iran, saying, “They will stop at nothing to end our way of life.” 

In addition to the op-ed, DeSantis released statements and spoke on the House floor many times denouncing any agreement with Iran that would allow them to retain any part of their nuclear program. He continued to rail against it after the agreement was implemented. Under Trump, DeSantis was enthusiastic in his support for undermining and leaving the JCPOA and imposing additional sanctions on Iran. On the decision to renege on the nuclear deal, he said that Trump “did the right thing.” 

Going beyond the Trump administration’s stated goals for reimposing sanctions, DeSantis has imagined that the Iranian government could be brought down through more outside pressure. In a Fox News segment, he sketched out his idea of how regime change might happen: “So, I think the more we can connect people and expand social networks there, I do think that this regime’s days are numbered, and the more success we have in choking off the money and opening up the networks means their demise will be met quicker.” 

Judging from his record, it is reasonable to assume that if DeSantis were elected president he would have no interest in negotiating with Iran about anything and would instead be looking for ways to destabilize and topple the government there.

DeSantis had already left the House by the time that Congress made its war powers challenge to U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led coalition war on Yemen, but while he was there he was a reliable vote against any restrictions on U.S. weapons going to Saudi Arabia. For example, he voted against a 2016 amendment that would have prevented the transfer of cluster munitions to the Saudis. The vote on that amendment was not strictly along party lines. There were 40 Republicans that voted for limiting the kinds of weapons being transferred to Saudi Arabia after the war had been going on for a year, but DeSantis stuck with most of his party on this question.

On other issues, DeSantis was a cheerleader for Trump’s early hawkish decisions.

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