Marco Rubio’s Supposed Expertise On Foreign Policy Leaves Much To Be Desired
Marco Rubio is often described as one of the GOP's leaders on foreign policy, but a close look reveals a decided lack of substance.
Michael Brendan Dougherty isn’t very impressed with Marco Rubio’s supposed foreign policy expertise:
Rubio has a reputation for foreign policy expertise because he chooses to talk about foreign policy often, promises large budgets to the Pentagon, and mostly pronounces the words correctly. Rubio’s foreign policy consists of babyish moralizing, a cultivated ignorance of history, and a deliberate blindness to consequences. This is the same “foreign policy expertise” that led to a misbegotten war in Iraq and empowered Sunni insurgencies across the Middle East.
It will be enormously popular among people who think nothing of wasting money and other people’s lives. Or as Rubio may one day call them from the West Wing, “my fellow Americans.”
As Dougherty notes earlier in his post, though, when you actually look at the substance of Rubio’s statements on foreign policy issues, there seems to be far less substance than his boosters lead people to believe, and in the end not very much to be broad about. Generally speaking, it is fair to put Rubio among the hawks in the Republican Party along with people such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham. While he did end up briefly joining Rand Paul’s 2013 filibuster on drones, the fact is that he and the Senator from Kentucky are quite far apart when it comes to foreign policy issues even after you take Paul’s recent moderation into account. For example, Rubio has been one of the most vocal critics of the President’s opening to Cuba and continues to defend an decades old embargo that had outlived its usefulness when the Senator was attending college. Given his ties to the hardliners in the Cuban immigrant community in Miami, this is perhaps not surprising, but the fact that he continues to cling to a policy that has no rational basis, serves no rational purpose, and hurts the Cuban people far more than it helps them is a fairly apt demonstration of the extent to which his ideas are rooted in the past.
Rubio’s ideas are also stuck in the past when it comes to dealing with what’s left of our principal Cold War adversary. As the Ukraine crisis has unfolded over the past year, the Senator has urged the Administration to take a harder and harder and supported the idea of sending Western arms to Ukraine, Like many Republicans, he seems to hold to the somewhat naive idea that Putin would simply back down from Russia’s territorial claims in Crimea and elsewhere if only the United States had a President who acted “tougher, forgetting among other things that when it comes to Europe, the United States can’t simply act alone but must take the position of our NATO allies into account. Additionally, he seems to accept the rather misguided idea that Putin’s actions are based in Cold War era revanchism rather than traditional Russian nationalism. As a result, he espouses policy ideas that seem more appropriate for the 1980s than the 21st Century.
In early 2011, Rubio was, along with McCain, Graham, and others, among the most vocal supporters of American intervention in the Libyan civil war, calling on the Administration to fully back the rebels that were fighting to overthrow Moammar Ghadaffi at the time. Since then, of course, we have seen Libya descend into chaos as the ethnic groups that made up the rebel coalition have been unable to agree about much of anything among themselves other than taking revenge against those who supported the previous regime. The result is that Libya has, much like Yemen and Afghanistan, become a breeding ground for militants and terrorist groups that have branched out to other parts of Africa and seem likely to pose a threat to the region for years to come. Most recently, the chaos in Libya has led to a migrant crisis that has caused thousands of people to seek refuge in Malta, Italy, and elsewhere along Europe’s Mediterranean coast. When critics of American intervention in Libya raised these types of events as possibilities in 2011, Rubio and other advocates of intervention dismissed them out of hand and continued with their full-throated defense of a strategy that seemed to think about none of the potential consequences that could follow from the downfall of a leader who had been in power for more than thirty years.
As Doughtery points out, Rubio’s record has not been much better when it comes to Syria, where he attacked the Obama Administration for not following through on its “red line” threat against the Assad regime over its use of chemical weapons while at the same time saying that the President has not done enough to stop the Islamist rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad regime. Like McCain and others on the right, Rubio was among those calling for American military aid to the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels virtually from the time that the Syrian civil war began. As we’ve come to learn, though, the idea of “moderate” Syrian rebels is largely a myth and any effort to arm them is going to inevitably mean that weapons end up in the hands of ISIS, who even Senator Rubio seems to agree is a far more dangerous adversary than the Assad regime.
And yet, as Doughtery notes, it is in connection with ISIS that Rubio’s foreign policy rhetoric becomes the most incoherent:
In early 2015, Rubio decided that what the campaign against ISIS really needed was stronger adjectives. At CPAC, he said the president should “put together a coalition of armed forces from regional governments to confront them on the ground, with U.S. special operations support, and then provide logistical support, intelligence support, and the most devastating air support possible.”
“Devastating.” I guess he really means it now.
Rubio concluded, “The reason Obama hasn’t put in place a military strategy to defeat ISIS is because he doesn’t want to upset Iran.”
I don’t know how to say this respectfully. But this is dumber than a brick in a tumble-dryer: a clanging, dangerous error. Iran is one of the principal enemies of ISIS. It didn’t even need to be persuaded to join the fight. It sees ISIS as another manifestation of the kind of Sunni extremism that threatens Iran’s regional allies: Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the Shia-friendly government in Baghdad. If we really wanted to stick it to Iran, we’d be arming Islamic State fighters and providing “devastating air support” to them.
On some level, I have to think that Senator Rubio realizes how dumb this comment actually is. He’s admittedly an intelligent man and it doesn’t take much time studying the ISIS situation to realize that Iran and ISIS are on opposite sides of a fight. Of course, even the Obama Administration doesn’t necessarily like to admit publicly that the United States and the Islamic Republic are essentially on the same side in the fight against ISIS, something that has obviously gotten a bit more complicated given the current situation in Yemen, which looks for all the world to be turning into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Tehran. Nonetheless, the fact remains that the suggestion that the President is holding back in the fight against ISIS because he “doesn’t want to upset Iran” is just so utterly absurd that one can only assume that it is the kind of line that Rubio threw into the speech as red meat for the CPAC crowd. That’s not really an excuse, though, because a foreign policy that’s guided mostly by sound bites that appeal to the crowd isn’t much of a foreign policy at all.
When he began his campaign last week, Senator Rubio made the case for his being the candidate for a new century. This is both an obvious reference to the fact that he is likely to be one of the youngest, if not the youngest, candidates in the race in 2016, and a sign that his campaign intends to be centered around the argument that he offers a break from the past both for the Republican Party and, if he gets the nomination, for the country. When it comes to the issue that has come to define him, though, Rubio’s ideas are very much stuck in the past.
I suppose he’s not an Alinskyite community organizer so in that sense he does not have the same qualifications as The One. Barry has set the bar so low that absolutely anybody is qualified in comparison.
Then again, he never called ISIS the JV squad, he never touted Yemen as a success story,he never hung four Americans out to dry at a Middle Eastern consulate and blamed a videotape, and he never made a Chamberlain-esque sellout deal with a genocidal Ayatollah.
Marco has sound judgment and he is not anti-American. Can the same be said about Barry? I’m leaning Walker, but I would have a high level of comfort if Marco were in the Oval Office making foreign policy judgments. I know that his foremost concern would be American national interest.
This is on par with Republican policy statements regarding everything…there is never any substance about anything. Replace Obamacare, but nothing to replace it with. Balance the budget, through magic math. Force Iran to give up everything and get nothing in return, because, unicorns.
There’s nothing there, and what is there is based on lies and mis-information.
So I guess what I’m saying is that Rubio is the perfect Republican candidate.
I’ve always seen Rubio as an empty suit. You pull the string and you get a bunch of boilerplate conservative /neocon talking points. He doesn’t have an original thought in his poor little head. .
1-There is no need to replace Obamacare with anything.
2-We can balance the budget very easily. Just don’t raise the debt ceiling. Eliminate government’s borrowing authority and you have a balanced budget overnight in one fell swoop. See how easy that was!
3-The carrot for Iran is that we won’t bomb them if they get rid of their centrifuges. This really isn’t difficult. Not being bombed would be plenty incentive to eliminate their nuke program.
Nobody who supports BHO has any right to question anyone’s qualifications. Barry isn’t qualified to be a shift manager at the local Dairy Queen. Anyone who voted for him is conceding that there are no qualifications to be POTUS.
Did someone hear a gnat, with a phony credentials, buzzing about???
He’s probably the best the GOP have to offer, so considering the opposition, of course he’s an expert.
@C. Clavin: No.
@C. Clavin: You’re just jealous.
Of course his ideas are stuck in the past. He is trying to appeal to Republican base voters who are mostly elderly and acquired their beliefs long ago, some with declining memories who remember the past better.
Obvious to you is not so obvious to me, looks more like a dogwhistle to the neocon (Project for a New American Century PNAC) folks.
So who was the last Republican politician with actual foreign policy expertise? Lincoln Chafee?
A lot of these dogwhistles get interpreted one way by ordinary people and the MSM, but quite differently by the targeted audience. As one example, “Compassionate Conservatism,” which meant something quite different to the MSM than the targeted Christian Right audience (or at least those familiar with Marvin Olasky, like Bush himself).
Ah, not just a RINO, but a Northern White RINO, aka a dying breed. Poached out of existence by the Tea Party.
@J-Dub: Yeah, Lugar was a nice political trophy.
Even though we lost the seat it was still worth it to beat Lugar. It makes threats of primaries credible. We can keep other RINOs in line by reminding them about Lugar-Mourdock. Lugar was useless anyway. By defeating him it is easier to keep others in line. It makes threats of a primary credible.
We can beat Donnelly in 2018 anyway. That’s an off-year election and the low information crowd won’t be voting that year.
Rubio, like his fellow Republicans, is stuck in Roosevelt’s dilemma. There just isn’t a good choice to make, ISIS or Iran, same as Nazis or Stalin. We know whom FDR picked, and how that worked out in the long run. FDR actually had non-intervention isolationism as a third option, that’s off the table for the Republicans, they have too many hawks, and, as Doug said, too many voters that remember the “good old times” when American guns conquered the globe.
Marco Rubio is an expert on foreign policy like Paul Ryan is an expert on economics. Their plans are equally detailed and effective.
Lugar was also into bestiality.
This is well-established. Not that I think we need government to regulate what species have sex, so long as it is heterosexual sex.
@James P: Stop using my name. Use your own handle!
What kind of a jerk/moron posts using someone else’s name?
I am the true James P.
If I had a girlfriend I wouldn’t use my own handle. Hah hah hah. Did you get it?
Is that an okay joke just a JOKE James Joyner?
I believe you James P.
This is terrible. You should definitely go to the site proprietors and give them all of your potential IPs so they will know the real you and respond appropriately.
BTW, your handle seems to be getting a lot of use lately, you should probably watch that. It’s hard to type with hairy palms.
All you other James Ps are just imitating.
So won’t the real James P please stand up,
Please stand up, please stand up?
You guys are all picking on the ONE TRUE CONSERVATIVE James P. You should read Shakespeare all you haters because if you give him a disease will he not get sick and get the runs? If he’s a prick will he not bleed? I don’t know if he’s ticklish or not.
“I am the true James P.”
But which one of you is Spartacus?
Testing. Testing. Testing.
Hah! Once again I am back! Back! Unstoppable. And now I have my avatar as well, my sweet, sweet Sarah, love of my life, though never to be consummated.
Oh, but if it were. . .
Yet, am I the man to tame the Mamma Grizzly? I will say this: only one man truly deserves to plow that field, and that is Ronald Wilson Reagan.
Yeah, that sounds about right. Thanks.
I actually slightly underestimated the intelligence of some of the people here. The comments of the guy with the phony handle are being liked while mine are being disliked which proves people know who the imposter is.
That’s the wrong picture by the way. I never used that picture of Ronaldus Magnus and Sarah Baracuda.
Stop pretending to be me. It is quite rude.
I will when you do.
The “filibuster” where no actual drone-related bill was being blocked, where at the same time Paul introduced little noticed legislation that actually formalized circumstances under which internal US lethal drone use by law enforcement would be allowed, and where shortly after he gave interviews endorsing lethal drone use against liquor store robbers?
My pee pee hurts …
No sh!t, genius. I figured out something about you. But first, a recap:
1) We know you’re a liar. Long-since proven.
2) We know you’re a hypocrite – you claim to care about property rights and yet you refuse to accede to the wishes of the owner of this site.
3) And now it’s clear that you’re one of those people who suffer from humor blindness. You are mentally incapable of getting humor. See, that’s how everyone can identify the troll-of-trolls, we don’t need a meeting – it’s easy, if you have a sense of humor. You however are unable to perceive humor. It’s a common symptom associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Sound like anyone you see in the mirror every morning? How about this:
Great, now I have to feel sorry for you. Now you’re a head case and either an abused or neglected child or perhaps the victim of a bad chromosome.
It’s really kind of heartbreaking.
You know what else is rude, spoofing new IP addresses to keep posting on a site after the host has banned you.
For some reason, after reading some of these comments I am reminded of Laugh-In…
@An Interested Party:
Sock it to me.
Except for maybe Rand Paul (and he is sliding hawkish / neocon lately because , duh, primaries), the entire Republican establishment are not just interventionist, but mindlessly, belligerently, mega-hawkish.
You could call this the 10 Year Old Bully Boy foreign policy school.
Diplomacy is not just suspect, but anti-American. Compromise is craven capitulation. BTW, did I mention Neville Chamberlain?
Today’s Rs would characterize SALT and START as treasonous capitulation. Every R within a shouting distance of being President is not just mega-hawkish, but believes that foreign policy is not acceptable unless we first humiliate our enemies by belligerent rhetoric followed by then bombing them to the Stone Age. “That’ll teach them to mess with us!”
It’s the “tuff guy” move. And it’s also a very predictable, easily exploitable move.
If the only tool you want to yield is a hammer, people who might be possibly be on the chopping block to get smashed by your hammer in the future will inevitably find a way to find a very hammerable nail in their regional enemy.
They will “find” evidence to support an unstoppable attack on their regional enemy. They will “find” evidence even when it’s false. Hell, they will “find” whatever evidence your “expert” foreign policy team really, really wants to be true.
Neocons and signatories to the PNAC letter have proven themselves to be particularly susceptible to the false information peddled by foreign powers who want to increase their regional dominance. Iran smoked those guys like they were Cuban coronas.
Chalabi was a Iranian agent and he snookered the Cheney folks because they wanted to hear the story he was peddling. His story validated their ideology.
Curveball was a dodgy, goofball former engineer who wanted asylum and so he told his interrogators what they wanted to hear. The interrogators bosses’ wanted to hear a certain story, so guess what got offered up? He delivered.
If you are a foreign policy professional and you allow the assumed policy preferences of your bosses to determine what information gets passed to the policy makers? That’s basic incompetence. It should be a career ender. But that was Team B’s raison d’etre.
But, apparently, advocates are immune. Bill “Always Wrong” Kristol is a welcome guest on any network Sunday morning show to this day. He’s a “get.”
Any competent foreign power would clean Rubio’s clock. Any competent foreign power would clean JEB’s clock (based upon his foreign policy team selections).
Mindless belligerence is not a foreign policy; it’s a tic and a tell that can be exploited.
We have a party who has a decent chance of gaining the Presidency despite being utterly incapable of dealing with any nation with a smidge of cunning and deception.
Tough talk and magical thinking and Green Lanternism are not leadership.
When it comes to foreign policy, I would prefer that we were the adults and our opponents were the children, not the other way around.
In just a few months, we will have a dozen or more versions of Jack Merridew on stage at Drake University’s auditorium in Des Moines and all of them will desperately want to steal Piggy’s specs by any means necessary, take and break the conch into a thousand pieces to prevent its future use if it can’t be used for their benefit, and to find and kill The Beast to prove their alphaness.
Each will propose new and tougher ways to shame and humiliate Piggy and to rightly appropriate his specs because he’s a fag and we can can make fire out of his faggy lenses. Each will detail their plan to Greenlantern the eff out of the conch shell and then smash it utterly when it suits their purpose of utter domination. Each and every one will tout their unique plan to kill The Beast.
A few months later, when the general election has begun and an unnamed Brit naval officer (in the form of people who wouldn’t even think of voting in a caucus / primary because that would be weird – I’ll wait for the actual election, thank you very much) will discover the island where the naive and childish survivors have abandoned their civil, ethical, and moral sense, have run totally amok, and started killing each other for stupid trinkets. He will not be amused.
The pretend British naval officer will tell us all to throw away these foolish and childish things and grow the eff up.
(Actually, if I remember the book correctly, he is contemptuous, but is silent so as to not shame the boys overmuch.)
Not “assumed,” experienced. Either tell the boss what he wants to hear or he pays no attention. People just learned what to say if they wanted to be heard.
Also, they demand to see the “raw data.” The bosses wanted to cherry pick to get to their own interpretations. No point to letting actual experts say what it all means, can’t have that.
Rubio has a billionaire sugar daddy named Norman Braman who is an Israel super hawk. No will will surpass Rubio as a middle east superhawk.
The proof of your proposition is provided weekly by ISIS. They are clearly, unmistakably, trying to lure us into direct combat. I think they assumed we’d snap at the bait and God knows the entire GOP establishment is desperate to do ISIS’ bidding.
ISIS (which is increasingly exposed as essentially Saddam Regime 2.0) knows if they lure us into direct combat the Iraqi government and regional governments will cede the job to us and contribute nothing themselves. And they know the essential fact of all foreign interventions: in the end, the people who live there win, especially with short-attention-span, casualty-averse Americans.
Of course now the (Squirrel!) short-attention-span Republicans have found an enemy they like even better than ISIS: Iran. Having failed miserably in Iraq, they want to go after a country with twice the population, four times the land area, and a whole lot more societal stability and unity.
Libs always tell us who they fear. I’m glad you fear Marco. I think Walker will be the nominee, but I would be more than happy with Marco.
I assume you’re the parody James P.
Do you ever take a moment to assess the waste of your own intellectual potential? I mean, you’re a bright guy. I’d guess you have an above average IQ. What, about 115? 120? But for you politics is all about your Narcissistic Personality Disorder, all about evoking outrage, all about somehow proving your own superiority. It all takes place at such a low level.
You’re a guy with a wildly exaggerated notion of his own wonderfulness. It goes without saying that you don’t form meaningful relationships, that you have a terrible time with women, with people at work. But you tell yourself it’s all jealousy, all just inferior people not recognizing your greatness.
The problem is you come off like a fwcking twit. Your knowledge of issues is paper thin, your “analysis” never extends beyond Me, me, me, mine, mine, mine. You have no insight because that would oblige you to look past yourself and for you there is nothing past yourself.
So you blunder into a room full of some very smart, very accomplished people, and you run your little bullshit Il Duce impression and people laugh at you. Then, to compound the matter you actually don’t see that it’s happening. You’re so clueless you don’t even understand that “Larry T” is goofing on you. Every single other person here got it, and you didn’t.
Now why do you suppose that is, dude? Why do you suppose everyone else spots the obvious and you don’t?
Get some help. I know the NPD makes it extremely unlikely you’ll seek help, but honestly life is better with some empathy, some humility, some perspective. You see more and learn more.
And by the way, I’m not talking to you as if I’m some exemplar. I never had NPD, but I had definite sociopathic tendencies. I’d consider myself a recovering sociopath. It is possible to change the things about yourself that make you lonely and unhappy. And spare us the denials, because we know.
Some times I can’t tell.
@de stijl: I always interpreted the silent naval officer as more dumbfounded or dumbstruck because he couldn’t fathom what he was looking at. But I may be wrong.
I am a proud survivor of Avoidant Personality Disorder. If you have more than 50% of the symptoms, then, by golly, you got it.
Actually, I am a meek, inadequate survivor of AvPD. Gotta be true to my own self.
God bless SSRIs.
@Just ‘nutha’ ig’rant cracker:
I love the ending. You’ve been seduced by the story, the boys, the adventure, the political machinations. You’re expecting the final battle. The climax is coming, you turn the page and then…
It would be like SAS dudes with helicopter and tank back-up showing up in the last chapter of third book of The Lord Of The Rings. Blew my mind when I was a kid.
The line between “writer” and “sociopath” is thin at the best of times.
My wife used to have the same – still does – but with SSRI’s and lots of forced exposure she’s gotten to the point where she can walk into a packed room and schmooze or attend an industry dinner or get up and bang out a speech in front of a thousand people. Still very criticism-avoidant, still worried how people will react to her, but under control now.I’m not sure if it helped or hurt being married to a guy whose reaction is always, “Why the fwck would I care what people think?”