The Republican presidential race is heating up and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is talking foreign policy. Alas, he believes intervention and war to be a first resort and seems willing to sacrifice American lives, wealth, and prosperity for almost any reason.
Rubio shares the common delusion on the Right that the world has grown more dangerous since the end of the Cold War. Actually, the end of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact has made it much safer for America.
Rubio claimed that “Turmoil across the world can impact American families almost as much as turmoil across town.” But that is only if the United States allows it. During most of America’s history, Washington avoided involvement in foreign tragedies.
Rubio worried about rising prices from foreign instability. Far more consequential is the expense of military intervention, human and financial.
But Rubio was right when he declared: “foreign policy is domestic policy.” It is difficult to maintain a democratic republic with a limited government committed to individual liberty while pursuing an imperial foreign policy. Americans’ freedom ends up as an afterthought.
In Rubio’s view, America’s ideals “have been replaced by, at best, caution, and at worse, outright willingness to betray those values for the expediency of negotiations with repressive regimes.” That actually sounds like Washington’s persistent support for the dictatorial allies that Rubio cherishes.
He wouldn’t admit any error in invading Iraq “because the president was presented with intelligence that said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.” Never mind that the supposed evidence variously was manipulated, based on lies, and carefully scrubbed.
But Rubio blamed Barack Obama for the current Iraq imbroglio, criticizing support for Nouri al-Maliki, who became prime minister under George W. Bush. Rubio urged an American return to Iraq: “It’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.” That fine distinction might earn a good grade in law school, but it won’t fool the American people.
Rubio also backed the Obama administration’s Libya misadventure. Yet he complained that “Anytime there’s a vacuum created anywhere in the Middle East it becomes a magnet for these sorts of terrorist groups.”
The United States must “reinforce our alliances,” he insisted, particularly in Europe. Never mind that it has more money and people than America yet continues to underfund defense.
Worse, Washington must “reaffirm that the open door policy is still intact and applies to any NATO aspirant, including Ukraine if it so chooses.” But the burden of defending any new member would fall on the United States.
As I point out on Forbes online: “Because Kiev is stuck in conflict America might face an immediate call to fulfill NATO’s Article 5 security commitment—against a nuclear-armed power. Does Rubio want to start World War III?”
Rubio complained that “Most threatening of all, we’ve seen Iran expand its influence.” Actually, Iran is a wreck and poses little danger to the United States. Moreover, the most important impetus for Tehran’s increased clout was Bush’s invasion of Iraq, which Rubio endorsed.
Rubio attempted to add a humanitarian gloss to his disastrous proposals: “Oppressed peoples still turn their eyes toward our shores, wondering if we can hear their cries.” He also argued that “we have a responsibility to support democracy.” Does his heart-warming concern apply to friendly oppressors in Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Central Asia?
Yet Rubio also would turn the military into an agent of corporate America through his plan for “the protection of the American economy in a globalized world.” The United States is insulated from much tumult overseas. Shouldn’t other nations take the lead when they are directly affected? How many lives is he prepared to sacrifice to sustain corporate jobs and profits?
Of course, with this agenda there must be more military spending. But America already is stronger than every other nation. If more than 40 percent of the world’s military spending isn’t enough, how much is?
Most of the other GOP candidates sound similar to Rubio. Unfortunately, Republican group-think won’t make the United States more secure. The GOP needs to engage in a real debate over foreign and military policy.