Larison also notes that “since he has been in the Senate, Rubio has made a point of getting on the more hawkish or assertive side of every foreign policy debate.” That reality—that promises he isn’t hawkish on every issue in theory, but he is in practice—seems like cold comfort.
It’s also worth moving down from this high level of abstraction to more practical considerations, and here it becomes clear that Rubio looks, walks, and quacks like a dyed‐in‐the‐wool neocon. If the Bush years taught us anything, it is that personnel are policy. The people staffing the Rumsfeld Pentagon and the Bush National Security Council made invading Iraq a foregone conclusion. When you surround yourself with people of a particular view, the information you get skews a particular way. So whom has Rubio brought in to advise him on foreign policy issues?
Jamie Fly, the former head of Bill Kristol’s neoconservative “Foreign Policy Initiative” think tank. In announcing the hire, Rubio declared that Fly “brings great experience to the office, and will be a valuable addition to our team as we look forward to the year ahead. Our nation is facing serious challenges around the globe, and it’s critical that we do everything we can this Congress to ensure that America remains a leader in the world.”
And Fly’s experience immediately preceding his hire by Rubio has been promoting neoconservative policies like bombing Iran until its government collapses. He argued this in a coauthored Foreign Affairs piece, as well as in his remarks at a Cato Institute event I hosted on Iran.
So let’s be clear here: beyond airy abstractions about “leadership” and “retreat,” Rubio is drawn to, and informed by, neoconservative ideas. When he says “leadership,” people should read that as “bombing Iran.”
This is one aspect of the choice before the Republican Party: taking Paul’s advice and rediscovering that conservatism doesn’t mean trying to run the world with the U.S. military, or taking Rubio’s advice and turning the reins back over to the neocons.