One consequence of the deafening media din generated by Donald Trump’s hateful blather is that his competitors seem moderate in contrast. Thus Marco Rubio, the callow young, ambitious first-term senator from Florida, is billed as a foreign policy leader in the Republican Party despite having little experience or knowledge, while brandishing a hawkish interventionism that gets virtually everything wrong.
Rubio has been billed as the “Council of Foreign Relations’ favorite Republican,” as if that were a compliment. He is a career politician whose foreign policy experience comes from serving on the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees. He is handsome, glib, and is fluent in the lingo of the national security managers. But his recent “major address” on foreign policy was all hat and no cattle.
He presented himself as tougher than President Obama, harped on the need for the U.S. to lead, promised a more interventionist, more muscular, smarter policy. But not one new idea managed to break through the fog of rhetoric. And the future that the young senator offers Americans is one of growing intervention across the world, a new Cold War or worse with Russia and China, a bigger military and a more impoverished nation.
Rubio was too young to vote on the Iraq War, but has learned nothing from it. He supported the disastrous intervention in Libya, which has produced a failed state that now is providing a potential alternative home for ISIS. Rubio terms ISIS a “civilizational threat,” yet refuses to build a grand coalition to take it out. Instead, he supports taking down Assad in Syria, arming mythical “moderate Syrians,” and challenging the Russians support for Assad. That surely will cheer ISIS, for it precludes a coalition with Russia, Syria, Iran and our allies (Kurds, Iraqis, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others if they will fight) that could actually muster the ground forces (largely the Syrian Army, the Kurds and perhaps the Iraqi army if it can get its act together). Rubio’s belief that America can take out Assad and take on Russia, while wiping out ISIS without another massive U.S. invasion is as fantastical as Donald Trump’s wall paid by Mexico.
On nuclear proliferation, Rubio pledges to rip up the multi-party nuclear agreement with Iran that provides intensive monitoring to preclude it from building a nuclear weapons capability. He suggests that the U.S. can tear up the deal, insulting the countries that helped negotiate it, and somehow increase international sanctions on Iran to either get a better deal or presumably blow up the Iranian facilities. Again, his posture is both unreal and reckless.
This list goes on. Rubio wants the U.S. to take more aggressive steps against Russia in Ukraine. He would send more arms and more aid to the corrupt Ukrainian government, virtually insuring an escalating war in the region. He’d move U.S. troops to Russia’s border and increase sanctions on Russia. He does not explain why a harsh confrontation with Russia is in the U.S. interest with the world verging on global recession, the U.S. needing cooperation with Russia in the Middle East and on nuclear proliferation, and Americans having neither the intention nor the resources to fight Russia over Ukraine.
Rubio promises a continuation of the corporate trade and tax policies that have racked up the largest trade deficits in the history of mankind, devastated American manufacturing and contributed to the decline of America’s middle class. He is a climate change skeptic, arguing that it is neither a clear nor present danger. This is one area where he is proud to disagree with the Pentagon. He would stop the opening to Cuba, reviving the policies that failed for 50 years and succeeded only in isolating the U.S. in the hemisphere.
Rubio has assailed his fellow right-wing senator and rival Ted Cruz for endangering America’s security, harshly criticizing Cruz’s support for curbing the National Security Agency’s sweeping collection of American phone records and his reluctance to use torture to gain information. As Cruz has risen in the polls, Rubio’s attacks have reached Dick Cheney levels of unhinged hysteria, arguing without basis that the limits on NSA and on torture open the U.S. to terrorists. (Cruz has struck back, accusing Rubio of supporting “military adventurism” in the Middle East and tying Rubio with Hillary Clinton on the debacle in Libya. Cruz clearly believes Republican primary voters are not as interventionist as Rubio supposes.)
Rubio has made his supposed foreign policy heft the centerpiece of his campaign. In a normal primary season, his policies would be reviewed, and the contradictions of his hawkish posturing exposed. But Trump makes all of his adversaries seem Solomonic in contrast. The perils of Rubio’s neoconservative fantasies pale in comparison to the ruin that would be wrought by the Donald’s bluster.