Home/Daniel Larison/Rubio Has Never Been a Foreign Policy “Moderate”

Rubio Has Never Been a Foreign Policy “Moderate”

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 rejectedthem. 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.

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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