In a wide-ranging foreign policy address Wednesday, freshman Florida Sen. Marco Rubio passionately countered what he perceives as the current non-interventionist drift in American foreign policy, including among Republicans.
“I am always cautious about generalizations but until very recently, the general perception was that American conservatism believed in a robust and muscular foreign policy,” Rubio, who is considered a prime candidate to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential choice, said in a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
“But when I arrived in the Senate last year I found that some of the traditional sides in the foreign policy debate had shifted … I recently joked that today, in the U.S. Senate, on foreign policy, if you go far enough to the right, you wind up on the left.”
Echoing a recent book by conservative foreign policy scholar and Mitt Romney adviser Robert Kagan, Rubio asked for people to imagine what the world would look like today if America had not been robustly engaged in international affairs after World War II.
“Could we say with certainty that it would look anything like America’s vision of an increasingly freer and more open international system, where catastrophic conflicts between great powers were avoided, democracy and free market capitalism flourished, where prosperity spread wider and wider and billions of people emerged from poverty?,” he asked.
“They were achieved because the United States had the vision, the will and means to do the hard work of bringing it into existence and then maintaining it. We had the will and means to defend its norms and institutions and the security of our partners, face down its challengers, assist other peoples in attaining their liberty, keep its trade routes open, and support the expansion of free market capitalism that accelerated the growth of the global economy.”
Rubio also attacked the Obama administration’s foreign policy of “leading from behind,” though without using those words.
“So yes, global problems do require international coalitions. On that point this administration is correct,” he said.
“But effective international coalitions don’t form themselves. They need to be instigated and led, and more often than not, they can only be instigated and led by us. And that is what this administration doesn’t understand. Yes, there are more countries able and willing to join efforts to meet the global challenges of our time. But experience has proven that American leadership is almost always indispensible to their success.”
Pointing out how China and Russia often block international action against malevolent actors like North Korea and Iran in the U.N. Security Council, Rubio said that America shouldn’t allow international bodies to hamstring important action.
“[W]e can’t always rely on the UN Security Council to achieve consensus on major threats to international peace and security,” he said.
“We can’t walk away from a problem because some members of the Security Council refuse to act. ”