Saturday, September 26, 2015

Marco Rubio's Foreign Policy Vision

Marco Rubio has an essay in the Sept/Oct issue of Foreign Affairs setting out his vision for a U.S. foreign policy. His youth and inexperience speak for themselves in this article.

Natural born U.S. citizens are eligible to be president at 35 years of age. Age and life experiences matter and it's hard to imagine someone with sufficient world experience and wisdom at such a young age. In fact, Theodore Roosevelt, 42 years old when he assumed the presidency, remains our youngest president (1901-1909).  John F. Kennedy was 43 when he assumed office, Bill Clinton was 46, Barak Obama was 47. Rubio will be 44 years of age in 2016. People mature at different ages, of course; but based on his Foreign Affairs article, I'm not prepared to hand the reigns to Rubio.

Because we are "the greatest and most influential nation on earth," he says, we have enemies "wishing to undermine us" and "allies dependent on our strength and constancy." But this is a melodramatic and self-absorbed emphasis. In fact, it's not all about us. Other nations don't want to tear us down "because we are greatest;" no, other nations are pursuing their own advantage even if interests sometimes conflict. The vision of the world embodied in the UN Charter is for nations to support each other for the common good as citizens of the world. Yesterday Pope Francis challenged world leaders to work together to alleviate world wide poverty and environmental destruction.  Rubio does not see himself working with other nations to alleviate poverty and environmental destruction--he sees a dog-eat-dog world where America strives to stay on top through strength, where America imposes its will to stay on top, and where others necessarily strive to topple us. It's like the One Percent saying to the 99 percent: "we are the greatest, and we will do what we must to remain the greatest, even as we offer support to those of you who support us." This is a vision of Putin's Russia--not an American vision of liberal democracy.

Anytime we exercise or refrain from exercising our power, he says, "(it) has tremendous human and geopolitical consequences." No quarrel there.  Since World War II we have fought a war in Korea that may have resulted in as many as 3,000,000 war dead; we fought in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos with another 3 million dead; we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan which resulted in more than 1 million war dead. Not that the United States is to blame for all these conflicts or their consequences, but there is no denying that our actions had tremendous human consequences. Not that this is what Rubio is thinking of.

Rubio touts three pillars to his foreign policy: 1) strength; 2) protection of an open international economy through the use of force; and 3) defending freedom and championing human rights and liberal democratic values.  Talk tough and lead from strength and the world will naturally fall in line with our leadership is the message.

Rubio would reinforce our strength by adding billions of dollars to our military and security budgets.  In negotiating with Iran he would have maneuvered our armed forces to signal an imminent attack on Iran while actively opposing them on every front--and surely they would have acquiesced to all our wishes he fantasizes.  Rubio would supply weapons to Ukraine, train its troops, and station U.S. troops in Eastern Europe to "discourage further Russian aggression." He would firmly band together against China with India, Taiwan and other Asian democracies. Although China won't like it, he conjectures, by preserving freedom on the Chinese periphery (with our aircraft carriers and battle groups?), China will fall in line and honor human rights at home, and cease its aggression abroad.  To counter ISIS he would "build a broadened coalition of regional partners." He does not say which partners he has in mind. And he has no further words of wisdom on how to solve the Syria crisis.  He says nothing about refugees, nothing about Russian and Iranian support for Assad, and nothing for Saudi Arabia and Qatar's support for Islamic extremist militias.

For an enlightening explanation of the problems posed by the Syrian conflict, read Philip Gordon, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who was the White House coordinator for the Middle East (2013-2015). READ Philip Gordon here.


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