Rubio on National Security: A Candidate of the Past

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Rubio on National Security: A Candidate of the Past

RUBIO ON NATIONAL SECURITY: A CANDIDATE OF THE PAST

John Bradshaw, Executive Director at NSN
November 6, 2015 | THE HUFFINGTON POST

Marco Rubio wants to be perceived as a youthful, forward-looking candidate, but his views on foreign policy are frozen in the Cold War. He fixates on Cold War enemies — Russia, China, Iran, and Cuba — and hasn’t updated his worldview to account for the changes that have arisen in recent decades. In his speeches, debates, and a recent article in Foreign Affairs, Rubio lays out foreign policy views that borrow the rhetoric of Ronald Reagan and the policies of Bush-era neoconservatives. He sees potential conflicts everywhere and prefers to address them using military force. His critique of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy ignores the Administration’s intense global engagement and diplomatic successes while offering few specific policy alternatives of his own.

Rubio bases his foreign policy vision, as described in Foreign Affairs, on what he calls his “three pillars:” Strength, prosperity, and freedom. All are worthy goals for American foreign policy, but as described by Rubio they fail to grasp the realities of the current international situation….Rubio’s focus on confronting long-standing adversaries in Iran, Russia and China and putting military power at the center of his foreign policy has blinded him to the challenges of the current era. He fails to mention the security challenges emanating from climate change, pays scant attention to improving cybersecurity and does not recognize the national security dimensions of immigration policy, an issue he once championed. Instead of grappling with these complex 21st century challenges, Rubio finds his comfort zone in citing Ronald Reagan and trying to re-ignite the Cold War. His old school anti-communism extends even to Cuba where opposes the long-overdue diplomatic opening pursued by President Obama. This position puts him out of step with others in his generation, including his fellow young Cuban-Americans.

In Rubio’s view, Iran, Russia and China are not seen as countries with which we have long and evolving relationships but as countries that share a “desire for a departure from the postwar order.” In 2015, an appeal to maintain the order that prevailed 70 years ago through military force alone indicates that Rubio can’t adapt to the world as it is today, or indeed even recognize it. He concludes his Foreign Affairs piece by saying “if we allow the continued erosion of our military, economic and moral strength we will see a breakdown in global order.” Claiming that America’s strength and values were declining was a hallmark of 1950s anti-Soviet paperbacks; Rubio seems to have read a few. He needs to recognize that today’s foreign policy must confront new challenges that are more complicated than those found in paperback novels about the Cold War, and stop trying to chart America’s future by looking in the rearview mirror.

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Marco Rubio speaking at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce in May 2015. [Gage Skidmore, accessed 11/6/15]

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