This description of Marco Rubio’s recent speech at Chatham House in London is quite misleading:
At a time of vigorous debate within the Republican Party about the United States’ global role, the first-term senator from Florida is articulating a worldview that places him neatly between the GOP’s tea-party-led isolationist wing and its more established interventionist wing [bold mine-DL].
That may be what Rubio would like people to believe about his foreign policy, but it’s not true. He sought to distinguish himself from both “isolationists” and “hawks” in his AEI speech earlier in the fall, but there is no good reason for the rest of us to accept his preferred rhetorical framing. Rubio may say that “hawk” is an obsolete term, but it is more accurate to say that he doesn’t want the baggage that is associated with the hawks in his party.
Reading through the latest speech, it is hard to miss that Rubio chooses to adopt very hawkish positions on almost every issue. He is predictably in favor of more Western meddling in Ukraine to oppose Russian influence, rejects the deal with Iran, wants more support for the “moderate opposition” in Syria, and complains once again about instability in Libya that resulted from the war he supported. Most of the speech is geared towards flattering his British audience by placing great emphasis on the alliance with the U.K. and the importance of NATO, and as such most of it is anything that a conventional hawk from either party might say, but at no point does Rubio find fault with other hawks in his party nor does he ever seem to disagree with them about anything.
When Rubio says that “talk of hawks and doves is 20th century Cold War language that no longer applies,” he is just trying to obscure the fact that in virtually every debate he comes down reliably on the side of hawks. When asked where he falls on a spectrum between Paul and McCain, he avoids the question because the answer (McCain) is obvious and politically toxic. He may not always adopt the most hawkish position possible in every debate, but he can be counted on to insist that the U.S. pursue an activist and meddlesome foreign policy. He is firmly in the interventionist camp, but based on his more recent speeches he evidently doesn’t want to be perceived as a hawkish caricature. Rubio would like to be on the record in favor of more aggressive policies almost everywhere, but he still wants to be thought of as the more reasonable alternative to reflexively hawkish members of his party.