Home/Daniel Larison/Rubio’s Creepy “Safety” Rhetoric

Rubio’s Creepy “Safety” Rhetoric

Jonathan Bernstein comments on one of Rubio’s stranger campaign slogans (“Nothing matters if we aren’t safe”):

Besides, “safe” as a foreign-policy goal — one so important that “nothing matters” without it — is bizarre. Taken seriously, it suggests that other U.S. values and interests should always be sacrificed if they are even slightly in conflict with safety.

Bernstein has a point, but what makes Rubio’s emphasis on safety even stranger is that his foreign policy is defined by his disregard for risk and the negative consequences of hyperactive U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts. Since he came to the Senate, there seems to be no conflict that he doesn’t want the U.S. to join or to help fuel in some way. While feigning concern for stability, Rubio consistently advocates for policies that make other parts of the world more chaotic and that make the U.S. new enemies. To the extent that there are real dangers in the world, Rubio has reliably advocated for measures that have made things or would make things even worse. By the “safety” standard of his own campaign rhetoric, voters should reject the aggressive foreign policy he presents to them.

The prioritizing of safety above all other things is potentially quite dangerous. The slogan is the sort of thing one expects to hear in a monologue from The Walking Dead, in which all other concerns have been subordinated to maintaining safety at almost any price. It’s impossible to miss the illiberal and authoritarian implications of this position. Needless to say, this is not the attitude of a nation that prizes liberty, and it is certainly at odds with maintaining a limited and constitutional government. Rubio is effectively telling us that in any trade-off between freedom and the (often illusory) promise of security, he is going to choose the latter. That is consistent with his record of supporting expansive government surveillance and detention practices, and it is in line with his reliable support for an unfettered warfare state.

In addition to all that, Rubio’s claim that the “world has never been more dangerous than it is today” is obviously false, and that should make voters view his poor foreign policy record with even more scrutiny and skepticism. Not only is he a poor judge when it comes to specific policies (e.g., the Libyan war), but his ability to gauge threats from overseas accurately is also clearly not very good when he mistakes today’s mostly very peaceful and secure state of affairs for the most dangerous conditions the world has ever known.

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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