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Marco Rubio the Foreign Policy “Centrist”

Stewart Patrick joins the club of people pinning Marco Rubio with the label of “centrist”:

Senator Marco Rubio, a leading contender to serve as Mitt Romney’s running mate, has a surprisingly centrist foreign policy vision [bold mine-DL] according to his address at the Brookings Institution last Wednesday. Florida’s junior senator sees a world of complex, transnational threats that make it impossible for the United States to hunker down in an isolationist crouch. He recognizes the need for international partnerships. He’s in favor of foreign aid and the defense of human rights. And he believes military force should always be on the table in defending U.S. security. Senator Rubio, meet Barack Obama.

I’m not sure why so many people want to go out of their way to associate Rubio’s foreign policy views with Obama’s, unless the purpose is to emphasize how militarized Obama’s foreign policy is or to make more people notice how ideological and dangerous foreign policy “centrists” can be. The main effect this association has is to remind everyone that there are very few substantive differences between center-left and center-right hawks, and the closer that members of both parties get to the so-called “center” the more likely they are to be in favor of starting wars or interfering in other nations’ conflicts.

“Centrists” from both parties tend to share a lot of the same misguided assumptions about U.S. “leadership,” the use of force, meddling in other nations’ affairs, and treating global interdependence as a license to wreak havoc defend freedom all over the globe. Rubio may well be a “centrist” on foreign policy in the same way that Lieberman and McCain are, but there is nothing desirable about this. No less troubling than the positive reception Rubio’s speech has received in the usual neoconservative and Republican hawkish circles has been the gushing over Rubio’s “centrism,” as if his regurgitation of McCain-Lieberman cliches should be applauded.

“Centrists” on foreign policy are among the more hawkish and reckless people in our political class. They are the chief representatives of broken bipartisan foreign policy consensus, and their concern is to preserve the status quo as much as possible in how the U.S. conducts its foreign policy. Their “centrism” is a function of their intense loathing of antiwar progressives on one side and non-interventionist and realist conservatives on the other, which leads them to cooperate with members of the other party to head off challenges from either end of the spectrum. This is why Rubio was more concerned to knock down “isolationist” strawmen to demonstrate that he had no sympathy for the skepticism of many of his constituents about endless foreign interventionism.

Rubio’s speech was the latest confirmation that he adheres to what Prof. Bacevich has called the ideology of national security, which Bacevich described this way:

According to the first of these convictions, history has an identifiable and indisputable purpose….History’s abiding theme is freedom, to which all humanity aspires…..

According to the second conviction, the United States has always embodied, and continues to embody, freedom….

According to the third conviction, Providence summons America to ensure freedom’s ultimate triumph….Unique among the great powers, this nation pursues interests larger than itself. When it acts, it does so on freedom’s behalf and at the behest of higher authority….Only cynics or those disposed toward evil could possibly dissent from this self-evident truth.

According to the final conviction, for the American way of life to endure, freedom must prevail everywhere.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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