Marco Rubio on Foreign Policy
This is President Obama's final Summit of the Americas, and it comes after six years of neglecting the region to the detriment of our interests and our alliances. When he has acted, he has done so timidly (as in Venezuela) or naively (as in Cuba). More often, however, he has not acted at all, leaving our allies unsure about our interests, and our enemies and adversaries emboldened to test us.
The US simply cannot allow decades of progress in building democratic, more-secure, and more-prosperous nations to succumb to growing authoritarianism and narco-terrorism in the region.
On the surface, that's not a bad pitch. Indeed, presidential candidates from the Senate have made similar arguments against governors for many years. But listening to Rubio's remarks at CPAC, the trouble is that own his views on foreign policy need quite a bit of work. [Rubio criticized Obama but offered the same policy as Obama on ISIS; and Rubio sounded like he meant that ISIS and Iran weren't enemies].
The notion that the president wouldn't go after ISIS because he "doesn't want to upset Iran" is bizarre--ISIS and Iran are enemies. Tehran is more than happy to see U.S. forces go after ISIS targets; in fact, Iran has done the same thing. When it comes to the terrorist group, Americans and Iranians are on the same side. How could Rubio not know this?
For that matter, the argument that Obama "hasn't put in place a military strategy to defeat ISIS" is plainly untrue. Rubio should know this, not only because he's a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but also because Obama's strategy to defeat ISIS is largely identical to Marco Rubio's.
RUBIO: No, it shouldn't. Look, the North Koreans, it's not even a government. It's a criminal syndicate that controls territory and need to be treated as such. Now, unfortunately, they possess nuclear weapons and are led by an irrational leader. North Korea is going to be a growing problem for the foreseeable future. You have a person running that country that is mentally unstable, but also someone that is fully capable of overestimating his own strength and ends up miscalculating and creating a real catastrophe, not just vis-a-vis South Korea, but also Japan and the United States. This is a very serious threat. It's not just a cyber-threat. I think North Korea has the potential to become a source of huge instability.
RUBIO: It's important to understand why I oppose it. I am not opposed to changes in Cuba policy. I think we constantly need to examine our foreign policy. I'm opposed to changes like this that have no chance of leading to the result that we want, which is more freedom and more liberty for the Cuban people. This change is entirely predicated upon with false notion that engagement alone automatically leads to freedom. And I think we have evidence that that is not the case. Look at Vietnam and look at China, countries that we have engaged. They are no more politically free today than they were when that engagement started.
RUBIO: Now, our job is twofold. There is existing law that has codified the US embargo. And whatever regulations are now written to implement the president's new policy have to live up to that law. And beyond it, I think we need to examine, as Cuban the government doesn't make any changes to their human rights record--they're going to arrest people today. They arrested people yesterday. They're going to continue to crack down on opposition in the island. We need to hold this administration accountable for these policies changes and if in fact that Cubans do nothing reciprocal to live up to or to open up political space, constantly challenge and reexamine these policy changes the president has made.
RUBIO: Well, obviously, I disagree. And he has the right to become a supporter of President Obama's foreign policy. But I think it's premised on the same false notion that engagement alone leads to freedom. It doesn't. We have engagement with Vietnam and China. And while their economies have grown, their political freedoms have not. Look what China is today 30 years after that engagement. China steals our military and commercial secrets, obviously actively conducts cyber-operations against the United States. And, internally, their people have no religious, no freedoms, no freedom of speech, no unfettered access to the Internet.
Q: Should we break relations with China?
RUBIO: From a geopolitical perspective, our approach to China by necessity has to be different from Cuba
RUBIO (ON TAPE): This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, on a lie.
Q: What was working with the old policy?
RUBIO: Well, I think that's not the question. The question is what new policy can actually achieve our goal of freedom and liberty for the Cuban people. On the contrary, Raul Castro made very clear that there will be no political changes on the island. Nor did the president ask for any.
Q: But you acknowledge the old policy wasn't working?
RUBIO: I keep hearing about how the old policy was designed to overthrow the Castro regime. That's false. The embargo's original purpose was to protect American companies because those properties had been expropriated. American companies in Cuba had their assets seized. And so, in order to prevent that, that was the reason why the embargo was put in place. The new purpose of the embargo in the 21st century was to serve as leverage towards democracy.
RUBIO: ISIS wants to establish an Islamic caliphate in sections of both Syria and Iraq, and other places. Potentially, Jordan is next. This calls for us to continue to empower those moderate rebel forces in Syria who are engaged in conflict against ISIS, not just Assad. And I think we need to provide more assistance for Jordan, both in security and in their border, because I think this poses a risk to Jordan down the road, and one that we should take very seriously. The urgent action is to draw up plans that allow us to begin to degrade their supply lines and their ability to continue to move forward.
Q: With airstrikes?
RUBIO: Yes, that border between Iraq and Syria is quite porous. We have got to figure out a way to isolate ISIS from Syria and Iraq, isolate them from each other. And, then, look, I would leave the rest to military tacticians.
RUBIO: Well, I don't agree with that statement. I think that's quite an exaggeration. The truth of the matter is that, if we do nothing, Iran is still going to be involved. And imagine if Iran becomes involved, and somehow helps the Iraqis turn back ISIS. You can rest assured that a future Iraqi government will be completely, 100% under the influence and in the pocket of Iran. They will have expanded their strategic reach to include practical control not just over Syria if Assad survives, but also over Iraq, increasingly positioning themselves as a hegemonic power. The United States has different hope for Iraq's future. Our hope is a country that includes Kurds and Sunni and Shia and even Christians, an inclusive country for its future. That is not Iran's goal here.
"Imagine for a moment, if the U.S. government had shut down POLITICO the day it launched in 2007--or any conservative, liberal or mainstream online news outlet for that matter," he said. "As Americans, we would be outraged. Press freedom is a universal human right, and we should be outraged that yet another blatant instance of repression has taken place in Cuba," Rubio said.
The bill would also increase natural gas exports to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy, Rubio said, and it would urge the president to expedite the deployment of missile defense installations in Eastern Europe.
Obama unveiled a new raft of sanctions against Russia, but the expanded penalties stopped short of sanctioning entire sectors of the Russian economy--a step that would constitute a significant escalation.
Rubio sought to link the right's resolute belief in American exceptionalism with a call for the US to play a more robust role in confronting bad actors on the world stage: "There is only one nation on earth capable of rallying and bringing together the free people on this planet to stand up to the spread of totalitarianism," Rubio told CPAC attendees, offering a tour d'horizon of affairs in China, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and Russia.
That posture stands in contrast with Sen. Rand Paul, who argues that the US should be wary of foreign intervention.
RUBIO: Well, I think our policy towards Russia under this administration deserves a heavy amount of criticism. I usually shy away from that in moments of crisis, when it's important for the nation to speak with one voice. But I do think in hindsight as we look forward to our future relationship with Russia, it's important to learn from the errors of the last few years where I think we have not accurately, or through this administration, assessed clearly what it is Russia's goals are under Vladimir Putin. They're not interested in building an international norm that nations conduct themselves under. They're interested in reconstituting Russian power and Russian prestige, and often at the expense of U.S. national interests. We know that the Russians have basically violated every major treated they've ever entered into
RUBIO: I think previous administrations deserve criticism as well [as Obama] with regards to clearly viewing what Vladimir Putin's goals are here. We know that the Russians have basically violated every major treaty they've ever entered into. I mean, let's call it what it is. They are lying and this government is a government of liars, the Russian government. And you see it, what's happening now in Crimea. They're claiming they're not there. But clearly, they're Russian troops, even though they refused to acknowledge it. So you're dealing with a government that lies as a matter of course, and it's very difficult to enter an understanding with them on anything when they are willing to lie and cover things up in this way.
In the forward, another general writes that the 21st century should be a race to see who can become the champion country to lead world progress. So while we are here bickering, there is a nation trying to surpass us as the leading power in the world.
The Chinese Government provides the people no access to the Internet. If you escape China they actually put pressure on governments to forcibly return you. The Chinese Government uses forced labor. Do we want that to be the leading country in the world? So we want that to be the leading voice on this planet? That's the stakes.
A strong, prosperous Mexico is good for the US. It represents a large, growing market for a wide variety of US exports. It offers a convenient, economically competitive alternative to China and other Asian countries. And a strong Mexico that produces good, legitimate jobs for its growing population will undermine the appeal of criminal organizations and the enticement of undocumented employment in the US.
[We should also] implement the trans-boundary hydrocarbons agreement signed by the US and Mexico in February, which allows international oil companies to join Mexico in joint exploration and development in the Gulf of Mexico.
The use of Che Guevara's image was particularly galling. Guevara was a cold-blooded killer, and he's reviled by the Cuban exile community. The use of his image in American pop culture is a pet peeve of exiles everywhere. But it was only a mailer. And as angry as it made me and others, it would have been counterproductive to have overreacted to it.
"We are a blessed nation," Rubio told the crowd. "Think of what God has given us: a nation rich with everything you can imagine. Resources, natural and otherwise. Think of the people God has allowed to come here over 200 and some odd years. The best and brightest the world has to offer. Being an American is a blessing, and it's also a responsibility."
But, the Tea Party favorite did express his desires to building coalitions before beginning any foreign entanglement. "America has acted unilaterally in the past--and I believe it should continue to do so in the future--when necessity requires," he said. "But our preferred option since the U.S. became a global leader has been to work with others to achieve our goals."
And Rubio made clear that military action should be on the table in Iran. "We should also be preparing our allies, and the world, for the reality that unfortunately, if all else fails, preventing a nuclear Iran may, tragically, require a military solution," he said.
Rubio has not been shy in pushing for that sort of muscular foreign policy approach. He has been an outspoken voice for intervention in Libya, and aggressively questioned what he called the Obama administration's "troubling" response to the rising violence within the country. "Is the message that we're sending that when future conflicts arise, the United States' actions are difficult to predict? There may be none? That, basically, the way to repress and bring down resistance like this is to be brutal? What are we going to do if there's a bloodbath after this?" Rubio asked, his voice rising.
In particular, Rubio says he will reinforce the importance of promoting democracy. "We don't always agree with other democracies but very rarely do we find ourselves fighting them," he says.
This kind of rhetoric on U.S. policy abroad certainly doesn't fit the stereotype of a politician who rode to office in 2010 on the backs of tea party activists. He is contradicting the notion that the tea party is synonymous with international isolationism. And he is challenging the narrative that his party, as a whole, is headed in that same direction.
In an online video response to a constituent question, Rubio laid out his case. The United States has to "be more careful about how we spend foreign aid," Rubio acknowledged, but "if it's done right, it spreads America's influence around the world in a positive way. I think sometimes, in the press and in the minds of many, our foreign aid is exaggerated. It really is a miniscule part of our overall budget. And it's not the reason why we have this growing debt in America," he said, instead pointing to entitlement programs.
The Arab American Institute has compiled a Scorecard to catalogue the voting record of the 112th Congress on issues of importance to the Arab American community. Though not comprehensive, we have attempted to provide a snapshot of legislation concerning many of the primary issues concerning Arab Americans. For the Senate, we have included 10 items: two bills on the Arab Spring, three on Palestine, one on Lebanon, one regarding civil liberties, and two for immigration reform.
RESOLUTION expressing vigorous support and unwavering commitment to the welfare, security, and survival of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure borders:
Proponent's argument for bill:(by United Free Syria organization): House of Representatives: Free Syria Act (HR.1327):
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