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Rubio’s Predictable, Ideological CFR Speech

Marco Rubio spoke [1] 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.

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13 Comments To "Rubio’s Predictable, Ideological CFR Speech"

#1 Comment By a spencer On May 13, 2015 @ 6:00 pm

Who will think of the Colombian florists? Who?

So, Rubio is the GOP’s answer to getting all the Spanish-speaking voters, right? Then, why did he schedule a major speech opposite the UEFA Champions League semi-final between Real Madrid and Juventus?

#2 Comment By DP On May 13, 2015 @ 6:52 pm

“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 just cold war thinking that’s become a tribal myth handed down from hack to hack until guys like Rubio don’t even understand what they’re saying anymore. The animating idea of the Cold War is that we were a shield for the free world who inevitably made the situation better than it would be without us. That was true in some ways and emphatically not true in others, but at least we had an actual big adversary then. We knew who we were a shield against even if that shielding effort was often clumsy and obtuse.

That all ended with the Cold War. We don’t have a global adversary to shield anyone against now. We just have a bunch of local conflicts of the same kind we handled poorly on average during the Cold War. Having a bunch of weapons doesn’t automatically give you the wisdom of Solomon, particularly when so many of us view trying to understand these local conflicts as somehow unmanly. And we don’t have the money to be projecting power forward against anything everywhere.

This is such tragic nonsense. At this point, if you want to understand the foreign policy mindset of people like Rubio, forget national security and foreign affairs specialists. You’d be much better advised to consult an anthropologist.

#3 Comment By Uncle Billy On May 13, 2015 @ 10:20 pm

Our so called “leadership” is unable to think a couple of moves ahead on the chessboard of international relations and conflict. We invaded Iraq, deposed Saddam Hussein with zero idea of the sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shiites that we unleashed. The reflexive, unthinking attitude of bomb, bomb and bomb, does not work. We keep hearing from the neocons that we must “do something” in Syria, Yemen, whatever. It’s enough to make you sick.

#4 Comment By Gus On May 13, 2015 @ 10:29 pm

“This is just cold war thinking that’s become a tribal myth handed down from hack to hack until guys like Rubio don’t even understand what they’re saying anymore”

He doesn’t. Read his twitter feed. You’d be hard pressed to find a more banal, fatuous list of test marketed cliches. They sound good until you actually think about them and realize that they are at best utterly empty.

#5 Comment By rubirosa On May 14, 2015 @ 12:17 am

“Rubio completely ignored the effects of the intervention in Libya that he supported in his prepared remarks”

This is at least as big a blunder – and nearly equal evidence of abysmal foreign policy ignorance – as Jeb Bush’s remarks about Iraq.

Libya has become an anarchic charnel house, is destabilizing its neighbors and has become the chief transit point for the rising tide of desperate Africans crossing the Mediterranean and overwhelming southern Europe. His argument that the only problem is that we didn’t “go big” is hollow and defensive, sounding like one of those Communists who claim that Communism never failed because it was never tried.

#6 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 14, 2015 @ 1:26 am

“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.”

This for me in the mst important point and the nexus of his contraditctory core belief that we have more peace.

Well, more peace than what or when is hard to quantify. And harder still os linking the trajectory of a world in less conflict over time to a powerful US military force is ngh impossible.

Here’s what we can say, that in the last twelve years the US use of force has not failed to bring peace. It has actually complicated the pissibility of peace and fostered what looks to be long term intractable conflict. By long term, I mean the conflicts have gone well past the US presence and intervention in this case teb years plus.

Intracible because those conflicts have spread beyond the borders of the countries we intervened in, unleashing centuries old strife and mayhem.

Interventions all, supported by Sem Rubio. It’s hard to imagine a more damaging resume’

#7 Comment By jk On May 14, 2015 @ 7:04 am

Seems like every GOP candidate is vastly concerned about policing the rest of the world.

Screw the US public back home with their annoying failing infrastructure, crime, government spying, $15-17 trillion deficit.

These problems are too much of a pain to deal with, something beyond the scope of a “New American Century.”

#8 Comment By cfountain72 On May 14, 2015 @ 9:00 am

Rubio’s doctrine might have three pillars, but it only has four letters: PNAC

Peace be with you.

#9 Comment By Jarco Boobio On May 14, 2015 @ 11:28 am

Bush defends the disastrous Iraq decision, then Rubio one-ups him by defending the disastrous Libya decision. Farce.

You’re left wondering which of these idiots will be the first to defend the disastrous Yemen decision … and who put the stupid-juice in the FL water supply.

#10 Comment By Johann On May 14, 2015 @ 1:00 pm

Having a large military for defense that is rapidly expandable is the best thing.

Having an omnipotent military to control and micro-manage the rest of the world is stupid and will result in coalitions against us.

#11 Comment By SmoothieX12 (aka Andrew) On May 14, 2015 @ 1:31 pm

@Johan

Having an omnipotent military to control and micro-manage the rest of the world is stupid and will result in coalitions against us.

Your post perfectly encapsulates what is really wrong with current American world-view. Building conclusions on the outside world based on delusions (including on false historical narratives) doesn’t get one really far. We can see results of it all around the world today. US political elites in general, due to their life experiences, or rather lack thereof, and the so called “education”, have very little understanding of issues of application of military force and real warfare. In fact, it is beyond their grasp.

#12 Comment By jk On May 14, 2015 @ 2:07 pm

“I would in fact take all sorts of naval actions, not military action per se, but military naval vessels transiting through that zone to clearly show that this is international waters.”

– Exceprt from Rubio’s CFR speech. Spoken like a true History Channel educated arm chair general. Too bad there was no Chamberlain references.

#13 Comment By IntelliWriter On May 14, 2015 @ 8:35 pm

With two costly wars barely behind us, and battles with ISIS and company still going on, who would vote for any of these jokers?