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Rubio and the Dishonest Charge of “Retreat”

Marco Rubio must think he’s making a very insightful observation here:

If you have a global economy, you cannot retreat from the world. In South Florida, we have a business that imports fresh-cut flowers from Colombia. Imagine if tomorrow there were a coup in Colombia and they installed some sort of Chávez-style government that expropriated the land where those flowers were grown. They’d be out of business overnight.

I’m not sure what point Rubio thinks he’s making here. Yes, some U.S. businesses are directly affected by events in other countries. That doesn’t tell us what the appropriate U.S. policy response to those events should be. Since no one is actually advocating “retreat from the world,” Rubio avoids answering the question about non-interventionism and throws out a meaningless slogan instead.

The (extremely unlikely) scenario Rubio imagines would be a very bad one for Colombia, but what exactly does Rubio think the U.S. government is supposed to do about it? Pursue regime change for the sake of Floridian florists? In fact, we can be reasonably sure that we know what sort of policies Rubio would want the U.S. to pursue against a “Chavez-style government” that took over a Latin American country. He would want the U.S. to impose sanctions and to try to strangle that country’s economy in the vain hope of destabilizing the regime. That is what he thinks our Cuba policy should be, and it is generally how he thinks the U.S. should treat regimes that it dislikes. For all of his rhetoric about interdependence and the the importance of the “global economy,” Rubio is among the first to support blocking trade and engagement with other countries when he disapproves of their governments’ behavior.

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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