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Previewing the Rubio “Doctrine”

Excerpts of Marco Rubio’s speech to the Council on Foreign Relations this afternoon outline an extremely ambitious and very ideological foreign policy agenda:

As president, I will support the spread of economic and political freedom, reinforce our alliances, resist efforts by large powers to subjugate their smaller neighbors, maintain a robust commitment to transparent and effective foreign assistance programs, and advance the rights of the vulnerable, including women and the religious minorities that are so often persecuted, so that the afflicted peoples of the world know the truth: the American people hear their cries, see their suffering, and most of all, desire their freedom.

Rubio plans to describe three “pillars” of what he is referring to as his “doctrine.” The first is increased military spending, in order to “adequately” fund the military. One shudders to think what someone like Rubio believes is an “adequate” level of military spending, which is likely to be exorbitant even by hawkish standards. The second is “the protection of the American economy in a globalized world,” by which Rubio mostly seems to mean preventing interference with navigation and commerce. He expands on this to include opposition to “violations” of cyberspace and outer space. All of this implies an enforcement role for the U.S. that is as expansive as it is ill-defined. Needless to say, the “doctrine” Rubio proposes would be a very expensive, very activist one, and it would likely raise tensions with other major powers.

His final “pillar” is “moral clarity regarding America’s core values.” Rubio will reportedly assert that “our nation is a global leader not just because it has superior arms, but because it has superior aims.” Longtime readers will recognize “moral clarity” as code for the selective outrage of ideologues that want to moralize about the evils of certain regimes while ignoring the wrongdoing of our government and that of our allies and clients. It is also a ready-made justification for taking sides in conflicts in order to contribute to the killing. It is typically advocates of “moral clarity” that endorse the most aggressive, illegal, and coercive policies against other countries, and they feel justified in doing so because of our “superior aims.” In practice, claiming “moral clarity” amounts to claiming to have a special license to commit injustices against other countries because of our good intentions.

It is telling that the descriptions of the main “pillars” of Rubio’s foreign policy make no mention of prioritizing or securing U.S. interests. He is very interested in increasing military spending, but he seems eager to use the military for many things that have little or nothing to do with U.S. vital interests. I doubt most Americans want the U.S. to fill the role of global enforcer that Rubio has in mind, and I suspect that this speech will leave many Republicans cold as well.

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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