Possible VP nominee Marco Rubio speaks out against non-interventionist trend in GOP, America foreign policy

Jamie Weinstein | Senior Writer

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.

On Iran, Rubio said, “We should also be preparing our allies, and the world, for the reality that unfortunately, if all else fails, preventing a nuclear Iran may require a military solution.”

He also forcefully argued for strong American leadership in bringing an end to the Assad dictatorship in Syria.

“The fall of Assad would be a significant blow to Iran’s ambitions,” he said. “On those grounds alone, we should be seeking to help the people of Syria bring him down.”

Bucking many in the GOP who would like to see foreign aid cut, Rubio defended such aid as an important arm of American foreign policy.

“Faced with historic deficits and a dangerous national debt, there has been increasing talk of reducing our foreign aid budget,” he said.

“But we need to remember that these international coalitions we have the opportunity to lead are not just economic or military ones. They can also be humanitarian ones as well. In every region of the world, we should always search for ways to use U.S. aid and humanitarian assistance to strengthen our influence, the effectiveness of our leadership, and the service of our interests and ideals.”

Rubio cited President George W. Bush’s “robust Congressional support to combat AIDS in Africa” as an ideal example of what foreign aid can do.

“Millions of human beings are alive today because the United States and others in the global community are paying for their anti-viral medications,” he said.

“This investment allows us to say without any hint of exaggeration that by 2015, the world could see the beginning of the end of AIDS, something that was previously unthinkable just a few years ago.”

Rejecting the notion of American decline, Rubio said America has been and remains the indispensable nation on the world stage.

“For while there are few global problems we can solve by ourselves, there are virtually no global problems that can be solved without us,” he said. “In confronting the challenges of our time, there are more nations than ever capable of contributing, but there is still only one that is capable of leading.”

Rubio concluded, after getting someone to give him the last page of his speech which he forgot to bring to his podium, on an optimistic note.

“For this new century is a time of tremendous challenges. But it is also a time of tremendous promise. This is indeed the world America made. It is freer and more prosperous than it has ever been,” he said.

“But it can be even better. As Americans we can’t make that happen by ourselves. But the world cannot make it happen without us.”

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