While some Republicans have taken an anti-interventionist turn lately, Florida senator and rising GOP star Marco Rubio made the case today for a vigorous U.S. foreign policy that promotes freedom and human rights abroad.
Rubio began his speech at the Jesse Helms Center by citing Ronald Reagan and the Founding Fathers. "At the core of our strength are the 'self-evident' truths of the Declaration of Independence," he said. "These are not just our rights as Americans. These are the rights of all human beings."
But by the 1970s--"the era of détente, of defeat and of retreat"--the "idea of placing morality at the center of our dealings with other nations was derided by supposed sophisticates as unrealistic and uninformed," Rubio said. "But then Ronald Reagan took these words to heart and he made them the center of his foreign policy—a foreign policy that even his critics now admit was remarkably successful."
From this broad statement of principle, Rubio made a broad statement of policy. The United States doesn't have "any intention of using force to depose every despotic regime on the planet," he said. "But we must do what we can to champion the cause of freedom—not only with the power of our example but also with our money and our resources, our ingenuity and our diplomacy, and on rare occasion, when there is no good alternative and when our national interest is clearly at stake, our armed might."
Rubio argued that promoting freedom abroad is not merely the morally right thing to do, it will make us safer at home. "Without our commitment to the rights of man enunciated by our forefathers, what are we? Just another big, rich country. But when we champion our ideals, we gain moral authority—and we gain physical security," he said. "You see, we may not always agree with our fellow democracies, but seldom, if ever, do we fight them. The more functioning democracies there are—'functioning' being the important quality—the easier we can breathe."
"Now some suggest that America should heed the famous words of John Quincy Adams and go 'not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy,'" Rubio said, citing a favorite quote of realists. "The problem is if America turns inward and ignores the monsters abroad, they are likely to come here."
As Rubio shifted focus to current foreign policy issues, he criticized President Obama for not doing enough to promote freedom in Iran, Libya, and Syria. And he warned that defense cuts would imperil the country. "I am a strong advocate of cutting unnecessary and wasteful spending, but the defense budget is not the biggest driver of our debt—it accounts for roughly twenty percent of our annual federal spending," Rubio said. "By contrast, entitlement programs swallow more than half the budget and they are the main drivers of our debt."
"The American armed forces have been one of the greatest forces of good in the world during the past century. They stopped Nazism and Communism and other evils such as Serbian ethnic-cleansing. They have helped birthed democracies from Germany to Iraq," Rubio said. "All they have ever asked for in return is that we provide them the tools to get the job done – and that we look after them and their families. They have never failed us in our time of need."
"If this is to be another American Century, the world needs a strong America now," Rubio concluded. "Because freedom cannot survive without us."
You can watch the full speech here: