News Column

Rubio Takes a Swing at Foreign Policy

November 21, 2013

Mark K. Matthews, Orlando Sentinel

marco rubio
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (file photo)

Nov. 21--WASHINGTON -- In a possible preview of a 2016 presidential platform, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on Wednesday broadly criticized the international record of President Barack Obama while outlining his own plan for more robust U.S. involvement overseas.

The Florida Republican, making what his office billed as a major foreign-policy speech, attacked the administration for not doing enough to overthrow oppressive regimes in Syria and Libya. He also warned against a thaw in relations between the U.S. and Iran -- including the possibility that economic sanctions against Tehran would be eased -- because of Iran's long-standing "desire to gain nuclear weapons," Rubio said.

"From his first days in office, President Obama has seemed unsure of the role that American power and principles should play around the world. He has failed to understand that in foreign policy, the timing and decisiveness of our actions matter almost as much as how we engage," said Rubio, speaking at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Administration officials would not comment on the speech, though in a news briefing Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney addressed the need to let negotiations with Iran continue.

"The president is determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and firmly believes that it would be preferable to do so peacefully," Carney said. "Therefore, he has a responsibility to pursue the ongoing diplomatic negotiations before turning to other alternatives, including military options."

Although Rubio did not call for military action against Iran, he reiterated the need to maintain a hard-line stance against Tehran.

"We need to make absolutely clear to Iran's leaders that sanctions will continue to increase until they agree to completely abandon any enrichment or reprocessing capability" that would be used for nuclear weapons, he said.

"We must also remember that those sitting across the table from us, however modern they may seem, are the representatives of a brutal regime that continues its sponsorship of terrorism and deprives its people of their fundamental rights."

Throughout the 45-minute speech, Rubio called on the administration to engage more forcefully on the global stage and decried upcoming cuts to the Defense Department. Taken together, the proposals suggest that a future Rubio administration -- if the rising Republican star decides to run and ultimately wins the 2016 presidential contest -- would be more willing to use traditional military engagement to settle international disputes.

He also criticized the Obama administration for leaving Iraq -- and soon Afghanistan -- without a forceful plan to maintain security.

"Some on both the left and the right try to portray our legacy as one of an aggressive tyrant constantly meddling in the world's crises," Rubio said. "But ask around the world and you'll find that our past use of military might has a different legacy. Our legacy is a crumbled wall in Berlin. It's the millions of Afghan children -- including many girls -- now able to attend school for the first time. It's vibrant democracies and steadfast allies such as Germany, Japan and South Korea."

Staking out an early platform on global affairs also could benefit Rubio's candidacy if he decides to run. The field of prospective candidates in the Republican Party include several politicians with strong domestic portfolios but less clout on international matters.

Rubio's call for vigorous U.S. involvement overseas draws a clear line between him and other potential candidates, such as U.S. Rep. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who have suggested a more isolationist approach.

mkmatthews@tribune.com or 202-824-8222

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(c)2013 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

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Source: (c)2013 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)


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