“It has become starkly apparent to me that we lack any sort of strategic foreign policy view, and when I say ‘we,’ I mean the country in general but in particular the Republican Party,” Rubio told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview Wednesday. “There’s this false choice between the labels ‘isolationist’ and ‘hawks.’ I think, frankly, those labels are obsolete in the foreign policy debates we now have. They have no applicability at all.”
Rubio laid out his vision in a detailed speech Wednesday morning at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank. The senator is advocating an increase in foreign aid, diplomacy, trade, active engagement, and promotion of democracy and human rights abroad.
“The time has now come for a new vision for America’s role abroad, one that reflects the reality of the world we live in today,” he said in the speech.
The Rubio approach, a balanced foreign policy based on various tools, matches closely with what Hillary Clinton set forth as secretary of state in her vision of “smart power,” which was based on the idea that defense, diplomacy, and development should be equal pillars of U.S foreign policy. Rubio acknowledged the similarities but said he would be able to succeed where Clinton and the rest of the Obama team failed to follow through.
“Maybe tactically Hillary gave lip service to that. In terms of how she executed foreign policy, that’s certainly not the case,” Rubio told The Daily Beast. “Tactically speaking, we’re talking about smart power engagement. But what is our strategy at the end of the day? Our strategic aims are the security and well-being of the American people and beyond that the spread of liberty, prosperity, and human rights around the world.”
Over his three years in the Senate, Rubio has steadily amassed foreign policy credentials. He’s now on the Senate Intelligence Committee, ranking Republican on the Asia subcommittee on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he is co-chairman of the Senate’s National Security Working Group. In the past year, he has sponsoredlegislation to increase to support the Syrian opposition and place restrictions on U.S. aid to Egypt, although his bills have not become law. Rubio traveled to Israel in February and will be in London next week to deliver another major foreign policy speech.
Although he won’t say so outright, Rubio’s approach is a direct rebuke to some of his potential 2016 GOP primary opponents, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has been actively pushing his foreign policy agenda, with little success but with major media attention.
Some of Rubio’s positions seem hawkish. He is working with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) onnew sanctions for Iran that the administration and some lawmakers fear would upset the ongoing negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries.
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