The world is a better place because of the involvement of the United States and the nation must not be deterred from its unique role in shaping world affairs by deficits or calls to focus on the problems at home, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a major foreign policy address at the Brookings Institution.
The speech by Rubio, often mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate, was wide-ranging, detailed, and praising of bi-partisan work on foreign policy and will surely burnish his foreign policy credentials. He began by thanking former Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Lieberman for representing a view of America’s role in the world in the tradition of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Harry Truman.
“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 said in prepared remarks. “That was certainly the hallmark of the foreign policy of President Reagan, and both President Bush’s. But when I arrived in the Senate last year I found that some of the traditional sides in the foreign policy debate had shifted.
“On the one hand, I found liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans working together to advocate our withdrawal from Afghanistan, and staying out of Libya. On the other hand I found myself partnering with Democrats like Bob Menendez and Bob Casey on a more forceful foreign policy. In fact, resolutions that I co-authored with Senator Casey condemning Assad and with Senator Menendez condemning fraudulent elections in Nicaragua where held up by Republicans. 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.”
Rubio said he found similar sentiment back home and added that he could easily focus a speech on foreign policy on the many disagreements he had with the administration of President Barack Obama. Rubio said that instead he wanted to focus on the trend in politics to argue it is time for the United States to do less.
“If we start doing less, who will start doing more? For example, would a world order where China, at least as we know it right now, was the leading power be as benignly disposed to the political and economic aspirations of other nations as we are?”
Rubio added, “The short answer is that, at least not yet anyways, there is no one else to hand off the baton to, even if it were wise to do so. On the most difficult transnational challenges of our time, who will lead if we do not? The answer, at least today, is that no other nation or organization is willing or able to do so.”
Rubio said the United States does not have to go it alone and “should work with our capable allies in finding solutions to global problems.
“Not because America has gotten weaker, but because our partners have grown stronger,” he said. “It’s worth pointing out, that is not a new idea for us. Our greatest successes have always occurred in partnership with other like-minded nations. America has acted unilaterally in the past — and I believe it should continue to do so in the future — when necessity requires. But our preferred option since the U.S. became a global leader has been to work with others to achieve our goals.”
Multilateral cooperation is urgently needed in the Middle East to being an end to the bloodshed and the Assad tyranny in Syria, help Egypt overcome economic hardships and move toward the establishment of a true democracy, and to address the threat posed by a nuclear Iran, he said.
“America shouldn’t try to solve any of these problems alone” he said. “But neither will any of these challenges be addressed without strong and creative American leadership. No other nation has the influence, relationships, or reputation for seeking lasting solutions to intractable problems that the United States has.”
Rubio also said the United States needs to reengage with our neighbors to the South and said our biggest long-term challenge was “the question of whether China’s rise will be peaceful and respectful of their neighbors.”
He said U.S.-European cooperation is a valuable complement to our work with our East Asia allies and that this “partnership is critical to a more realistic approach to Russia as well.”
“I know some here might disagree, and certainly the President would, but I feel like we have gotten precious little from Russia in exchange for concessions on nuclear weapons,” he said.
“The reason is because Russia’s domestic politics shape its foreign policies. An autocratic Russia tends to be more anti-Western, and to act in ways that make it harder to integrate Russia into the global economy and free international political order.
“Putin might talk tough, but he knows he is weak. Everywhere he looks, he sees threats to his rule, real and imagined. And so he uses state-owned media to preach paranoia and anti-Western sentiments to Russians. He faces a rising China to the east and hostile Islamic forces to the South, but he tells his people the biggest threat they face is from NATO.”
Rubio said a “re-energized U.S.-European coalition can help empower those forces within Russia working to end corruption and open their political system.”
Noting the historic deficits and the “dangerous national debt” the country has incurred, Rubio said that the United States needs 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.”
“This new century is a time of tremendous challenges,” he said in conclusion. “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.
“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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