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Rubio and Totalitarianism

The New York Timesreports on Rubio’s renewed effort to remind us why he should never be president, namely his bad and outdated views on foreign policy. For example, it quotes part of a recent speech he gave at CPAC:

“There is only one nation on earth capable of rallying and bringing together the free people on this planet to stand up to the spread of totalitarianism,” Mr. Rubio told attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference, offering a tour d’horizon of affairs in China, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and Russia.

First, totalitarianism isn’t spreading. Insofar as there are still genuinely totalitarian regimes in the world, they control very few countries, and they are not gaining new followers. They shouldn’t be ignored or dismissed, but the danger from them needs to be kept in perspective. Across most of the globe, totalitarianism is nowhere to be found, and that sort of political system has been thoroughly discredited in the eyes of almost all nations since the collapse of the USSR. Some authoritarian regimes are becoming more repressive than they were in the recent past, but in general they are not expanding or increasing their influence. Thinking about the U.S. role in the world as the only country “capable of rallying and bringing together the free people on this planet to stand up to the spread of totalitarianism” might have made sense thirty years ago, but today it is at best a silly anachronism and at worst a profound misunderstanding of the world today. If Rubio genuinely believes that totalitarianism spreading in the world today, he’s simply wrong, and that misunderstanding is bound to warp the rest of his foreign policy views.

For some reason, many Republicans seem to think that Rubio is helping himself to recover politically inside the GOP by emphasizing his hard-line credentials on foreign policy. No doubt there are some hard-line pundits and foreign policy professionals that like what he’s saying, but I don’t understand who else would be both interested in these topics and likely to agree with Rubio’s stale ideas. In addition to offering mostly bad or unworkable ideas in the case of Ukraine, he gives skeptics no reason to trust that he isn’t just a new McCain or Santorum. Here is his weak attempt to reassure his audience that he isn’t a knee-jerk interventionist:

Mr. Rubio seemed to acknowledge this reluctance in his CPAC speech, assuring conservatives that he did not want America “to be involved in 15 wars” and conceding that the country could not resolve every conflict around the globe.

So Rubio is against involvement in 15 wars, but overall he leaves you with the impression that he would have no problem if the U.S. were involved in five or six.

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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