Marco Rubio is unhappy with the amount of attention Obama gave foreign policy issues in the State of the Union address:
During Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama had an opportunity to engage in the debate about America’s role in the world. Unfortunately, he failed to do so.
Since Rubio also had nothing to say about America’s role in the world, except for using the phrase “indispensable nation,” this is an odd complaint to make about the speech. If this debate was so important and Obama’s supposed neglect of it so unfortunate, why didn’t Rubio include any of these arguments in his own speech? I assume that Rubio ignored foreign policy for the same perfectly good reason that it took up relatively little space in the president’s address: it isn’t a top priority for the public, there are more pressing and relevant domestic matters to discuss, and it doesn’t make sense to review a host of international problems at length in what are properly domestic political speeches for the sake of reviewing them. It’s also possible that Rubio knows that his peculiar understanding of global interdependence (in which Syria is “integral” to U.S. interests and events in Mali may soon be felt in Middle America) is not very popular with most Americans and hasn’t been for some time. Whatever the reason for it, it’s significant that Rubio couldn’t bother himself to include any discussion of foreign policy beyond reciting a slogan when he had the opportunity, but still thinks we should care about his interventionist and hegemonist preferences.
Rubio’s article includes a notable difference from his response speech. His Tuesday speech was filled with standard movement conservative arguments about the need for a smaller role for government, which is fine as far as it goes, but then he demands an extremely activist and much more powerful government abroad. Rubio writes:
The biggest foreign policy problem facing the United States right now is not too much U.S. engagement, but the danger of a world in which we increasingly refuse to lead.
So Rubio believes that America’s biggest foreign policy problem is that the U.S. is not involved enough in the rest of the world and is not “leading” as much as it should be. Most Americans don’t agree with that. For that matter, most Republicans apparently don’t agree with it, either. According to Rasmussen, just 22% of Republicans say the U.S. is not involved enough in the Middle East. Rubio doesn’t speak for a majority of his own party, much less a majority of the country. More important, this claim is simply not true.
Rubio would have the U.S. invite new dangers and worsen old ones by making the U.S. role in the world more activist, intrusive, and meddlesome. For instance, Rubio thinks that the U.S. should be doing more to “stand up to” Putin, so his recommended course of action is naturally as vague as can be, but in practice doing more to “stand up to” Putin will increase existing tensions between the U.S. and Russia to the detriment of U.S. allies and clients and U.S.-Russian cooperation on matters of common interest. When the previous administration made a point of provoking and confronting Putin, it contributed to more insecurity in Europe and set the stage for the war in Georgia. When Congress passed the Magnitsky Act (that Rubio voted for), it directly contributed to a downward spiral in U.S.-Russian relations that reversed some of the improvement that had preceded it. The truth is that Rubio’s more abrasive, confrontational approach to Russia has been tried and it keeps failing spectacularly. Why would Americans trust calls for “leadership” that are wedded to policies that have already been attempted and proven wrong?