Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida and a 2016 presidential candidate, offered a robust and muscular foreign policy plan Wednesday, laying out his vision for the use of American power in the 21st century at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, saying that unlike the current U.S. president, he understands the importance of projecting ‘American Strength.’
‘American Strength,’ he said, is a ‘means of preventing war, not promoting it…weakness, on the other hand, is the friend of danger and the enemy of peace.’
The U.S. Senator revisited and expanded upon several pillars of foreign policy that are central to his campaign to win the White House, including his support for a robust U.S. military and a return to America’s ‘core values.’
He said when asked that he doesn’t envision the U.S. acting as the world’s policeman – though he said he believes that only America is ‘capable’of convening and uniting the world to confront modern challenges.
And he claimed that he would not have voted to go to war with Iraq if he’d been in the U.S. Senate at the time, knowing what he does now about faulty intelligence that convinced lawmakers, and the George W. Bush administration, that Saddam Hussein’s regime was in possession of weapons of mass destruction.
Sharply separating his foreign policy from that of President Barack Obama, Rubio said the current occupant of the White House ‘entered office believing America was too hard on our adversaries, too engaged in too many places, and that if we just took a step back, did some “nation building at home” – ceding leadership to other countries, America would be better liked and the world better off.’
‘So he wasted no time stripping parts from the engine of American Strength,’ Rubio argued, ‘He demonstrated a disregard for our moral purpose that at times flirted with disdain.’
This deterioration of our physical and ideological strength has led to a world far more dangerous than when President Obama entered office.’
On Obama’s watch, Rubio said, ‘We’ve seen an emboldened Russia invade Ukraine,’ and ISIS ‘commit brutal atrocities.’
‘We’ve seen one of the most devastating humanitarian catastrophes in decades as hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been slaughtered at the whim of a tyrant,’ he said referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is known to have used chemical weapons on his people.
Rubio said that the ‘most threatening’ global development of all during Obama’s five and a half years in office has been the expansion of Iran’s influence in the Middle East and its threats to ‘annihilate Israel as it moves closer to a nuclear weapons capability.’
The Obama administration’s tentative accord with Iran will ‘likely lead to a cascade of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and could force Israel to take bold action to defend itself, making war with Iran even more likely,’ he contended, accusing the outgoing U.S. leader of putting his ‘legacy over leadership.’
‘The likely impacts of this deal, along with the broader unraveling of global order, underscore a truth we must never again forget: America plays a part on the world stage for which there is no understudy,’ the GOP presidential hopeful said.
‘When we fail to lead with strength and principle, no other country, friend or foe, is willing or able to take our place. And the result is chaos.’
He also pushed for stronger protections of America’s property whether on land, at sea or in cyber or outer space.
An outspoken member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who has put his experience with international issues at the crux of his bid to become Commander-in-Chief, Rubio was not expected to unveil a game-changing manifesto this afternoon.
Rather, the speech, and subsequent question and answer session were to offer the well-spoken senator an opportunity to remind foreign-policy conscious voters why he believes he’s the best candidate to represent the GOP in an election cycle in which national security issues are taking center stage.
But a perceived shift in position on authorization of the Iraq war had tongues wagging after the speech.
After Rose asked him if he would have supported a 2002 resolution authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Rubio said, ‘Not only would I not have been in favor of it, President Bush would not have been in favor of it.’
Rubio said had the Republican president known the intelligence was faulty, he wouldn’t have called for military engagement with Hussein.
Yet Rubio in March said he did not believe it was a mistake to go to war with Iraq during a Fox News interview.
‘The world is a better place because Saddam Hussein doesn’t run Iraq,’ he said.
And, as the Miami Herald, points out, Rubio said in 2010 as a candidate for the U.S. Senate that he believes that America is better off having invaded the Middle Eastern country.
‘I think the answer ultimately is yes,’ he said, responding to a question. ‘First of all, the world is better off because Saddam Hussein is no longer in charge in Iraq. And I think we have to remind ourselves of that, is that the world is a better and safer place because Saddam Hussein no longer is in charge of that country.
Only one other Republican candidate for the White House serves of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and the two have wildly different views on the responsibilities America should take on globally, despite representing the same political party in Congress.
Rubio believes that increased funding for the U.S. military should be a priority of the next administration, while Paul has vigorously supported a reduction in the number of troops stationed abroad.
‘To ensure our strength never falters, we must always plan ahead,’ Rubio said. ‘It takes forethought to design and many years to build the capabilities we may need at a moment’s notice.’
Rubio said he’d be in favor of greater funding ‘even in times of peace and stability, though the world today is neither.’
In that regard, the Rubio doctrine doesn’t differ significantly from that of South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who has plans to enter the race on June 1.
Graham is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a strident critic of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. He has aggressively advocated for an escalation in defense spending funding and an enhanced presence abroad, as well.
But the bare-faced senator’s aspiring candidacy has failed to catch fire outside of his home state.
Rubio, on the other hand, has come-from-behind since formally announcing his intentions and has surged to the top of multiple polls.
Paired up against likely Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rubio would lose by six points – but that’s better than nearly every one of his GOP competitors.
Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, would also lose to Clinton in the general election by six percentage points, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll released last week shows. Paul has repeatedly come closest to beating the Democratic juggernaut but would still succumb to her 44-47.
Among Republican primary voters and caucus-goers, Rubio often does better than Bush or Paul, and his focus on foreign policy may be the cause.
The WSJ/NBC news poll found that 27 percent of Republicans believe that national security is a top priority at present, making it the top concern of GOP voters.
In 2012, for instance, just eight percent of Republicans said the same thing.
Rubio’s been unequivocal in his support for Israel. He vigorously tried to have language included in the Senate’s Iran nuclear bill forcing the country to recognize Israel’s right to exist but had to back away from the provision in the committee process in order to build bipartisan support for the overall bill.
He’s also been a fierce opponent of the president’s move to normalize relations with Cuba, arguing that the U.S. should continue to ostracize the communist country’s leader Raul Castro until he is deposed.
Today he called for for ‘moral clarity regarding America’s core values’ and assert that America ‘is a global leader not just because it has superior arms, but because it has superior aims.’
He also said he’d keep Guantanamo Bay open, if elected, because it’s the proper place for enemy combatants who are removed from the battlefield.