Daniel Benaim makes the correct case that Rubio’s foreign policy savvy is greatly exaggerated, but his argument goes awry when he writes this:
Back in 2012, Rubio positioned himself as a foreign policy moderate [bold mine-DL]. He supported Obama’s action in Libya. He supported the notion of talks with Iran. He warned less hawkish Republican colleagues that “if you go far enough to the right, you wind up on the left.”
This is misleading. When Rubio made that statement, he was accusing conservative non-interventionists of being leftists in order to burnish his reputation as a hawk. Bashing non-interventionists doesn’t prove Rubio’s “moderation” on foreign policy, but shows instead that he is allergic to anything less than reflexive interventionism. He claimed to support negotiations with Iran, but insisted on such maximalist goals for those negotiations that it was obvious he didn’t want diplomacy to succeed. Virtually every Iran hawk paid lip service to “the notion” of Iran talks. It was the reality of those talks that Rubio hated, and as soon as talks started to produce results he rejected them. This is just one part of his general loathing of diplomacy and the compromises it requires.
Supporting the war in Libya is something that only the most predictably interventionist Republicans did, and Rubio was among the most vocal supporters of the war. Rubio had no problem with regime change in Libya, but wanted U.S. intervention to be even more aggressive and long-lasting than it was. That doesn’t make him a “moderate” or anything like it. It confirms that he is one of the most reliably hawkish and ideological Republicans on foreign policy in Washington.
Rubio never positioned himself as a moderate in any of these debates, but has consistently used less combative rhetoric to mask extremely hawkish views. If Rubio has changed at all in the last few years, it is in his use of more openly hard-line rhetoric to match the aggressive policies he has endorsed all along.