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Rubio’s Predictable, Ideological CFR Speech

Marco Rubio spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations today to outline his foreign policy views. His speech was a very ideological one with the glaring omissions and blind spots that one would expect. While describing the first “pillar” of his “doctrine,” Rubio makes this assertion:

When America has the mightiest Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and intelligence community in the world, the result is more peace, not more conflict.

This is not always true, and in the last fifteen years we have seen on more than one occasion where the possession of enormous military power has led the U.S. and its allies to start or to join wars when they did not have to do so. The result of the exercise of U.S. military power in Iraq and Libya has undeniably been ongoing conflict and bloodshed in those countries with destabilizing effects on neighboring states. In order for the “mightiest” military to be able to help keep the peace, it must first not be used to wage wars of choice. Likewise, U.S. support for its clients’ wars, which Rubio would presumably view as part of “leadership,” clearly contributes to creating new conflicts and exacerbating existing ones.

Then again, this is a very odd thing for Rubio to say, since he spends so much time in the rest of the speech emphasizing how chaotic and dangerous the world is. He is greatly exaggerating disorder around the world to score points, but according to him these conflicts shouldn’t be happening. After all, the U.S. does have the “mightiest” military and intelligence agencies in the world right now. Rubio might want the military to be even more powerful than it is, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is already the most powerful in the world. That tells us that U.S. military preeminence doesn’t have the pacifying effect on various conflicts around the world that Rubio imagines that it should have. Those conflicts have other causes, and they aren’t going to be remedied by overawing the world through increased military spending.

It is worth noting that Rubio completely ignored the effects of the intervention in Libya that he supported in his prepared remarks, and in the Q&A lamely tried to blame the post-intervention chaos on a lack of continued U.S. meddling. On Libya and Syria, Rubio keeps trying to pretend that earlier or more forceful U.S. intervention would have prevented the worst results of these conflicts. That is very likely wrong, butthe remarkable thing about his position is that he never considers what that earlier or more forceful intervention would have cost the U.S. or whether that cost would be worth paying. He simply takes for granted that the U.S. should always be “leading” and committing itself to these fights without regard for the consequences. That’s not a doctrine anyone should want to follow. It’s a recipe for one foreign policy failure after another.

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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