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Rubio Opposes Ruling Out Stupid Actions

Marco Rubio is annoyed that Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq:

“I don’t think it’s wise for the commander in chief to step forward and immediately begin to rule options out. Even if he never intends to send a single American soldier, he shouldn’t be signaling that to terrorists,” Rubio (R-Fla.) said in an interview. “You should not be going around announcing what you won’t do.”

At best, this is a useless criticism. If someone replied to Rubio that he must think that putting U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq is an acceptable option, he would probably respond angrily that he doesn’t want to do that. “No one’s talking about boots on the ground,” he would say, despite the fact that some hawks are proposing exactly that in the case of Iraq. Unless Rubio believes that it is an acceptable thing to do, why object to ruling it out? The reality is that Obama ruled out this option because it is an obvious political non-starter in the U.S., and more important it would result in risking and losing more American lives for no discernible purpose. Do Republicans want to be the party that reflexively supports sending American soldiers to fight unnecessary wars? That is what they will be, and that is how they will be perceived, if they follow the likes of Rubio.

This reminds me of the complaint that Obama was supposedly wrong to rule out military action in Ukraine. The critics making this complaint couldn’t defend the proposition that military action would be appropriate or successful, and they would probably be outraged if someone suggested that they were advocating for war, but they were happy to complain that the obviously stupid option had been ruled out from the start. When Rubio or other hawks say things like this, I would like someone to ask them the follow-up question, “Do you believe that it is appropriate to risk American lives to shore up an abusive sectarian government?” If they do, the burden should be on them to justify including that as something that the U.S. should consider doing. If they don’t, their complaint should be dismissed as the publicity-seeking stunt that it probably is.

This is why the public will continue to distrust the GOP on foreign policy no matter what most Americans think of Obama’s record. Chris Preble summed this up earlier this week:

Obama’s unofficial mantra “don’t do stupid [stuff],” so ripe for ridicule by the pro-war faction, looks preferable to the alternative: “we do stupid stuff, and we’re proud of it!”

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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