Marco Rubio Wants a “New American Century” and the Neocons love him for it.
Over at National Review Eliana Johnson provides us with some valuable insight regarding the neoconservative movement’s current view of the 2016 Presidential race. And let us be clear, neoconservatives are not small government conservatives or libertarian whatsoever. And from the likes of Senator John McCain to Senator Linsey Graham, the neoconservatives have found their man of the hour: Marco Rubio.
The neocons are back. That is, at least in Marco Rubio’s world. The Florida senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate has, since his election in 2010, regularly consulted with and sought the advice of top neoconservative writers and policymakers, several of whom served in the administration of George W. Bush.
His loose circle of advisers includes former national-security adviser Stephen Hadley, former deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, Brookings Institution scholar and former Reagan-administration aide Robert Kagan, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, and former Missouri senator Jim Talent.
To this group, beating back the rising tide of non-interventionism in the Republican party is a top priority, and they consider Rubio a candidate, if not the candidate, capable of doing so. “I think it’s very important that any isolationist arguments be defeated well and be defeated early,” says a neoconservative foreign-policy expert who talks with Rubio frequently.
To many of these neoconservatives, Rubio is not only well-versed and a true believer in their view of the world but a fresh face willing to recast the neoconservative drive for a unipolar world dominated by the “enlightened self-interest” of American imperial power in simply and “moral” terms.
Johnson writes elsewhere of the “Rubio Doctrine”:
He will set forth the three principles that he believes should “govern the exercise of our power,” and he in suggesting that the Rubio doctrine could one day find itself on the same plane as those of Truman, Kennedy, or Reagan. The Rubio doctrine…consists of funding the military in order to restore and maintain American military strength; opposing “any violations of international waters, airspace, cyberspace, or outer space”; and supporting the spread of freedom, both economic and political, across the globe.
Sounds noble, right? Sounds right out of the Robert Kagan school of foreign policy, right? How could one ever be against American “strength” and “supporting freedom…across the globe” with such American strength?
Well, such goals would be fine and dandy if they held true to the very principle of American “freedom” and “global stability,” but American policy in the 21st century has hardly fostered peace, stability, and freedom. Since the attacks on 9/11, American intervention abroad has created chaos in the Middle East. The toppling of Saddam in Iraq and Gaddafi in Libya only served to empower the type of radical terrorist who attacked the United States on 9/11 as well as bolstering Iran’s standing in the region. These interventions and the marching of NATO up to Russia’s doorstep has turned the Siberia bear downright paranoid.
The neoconservatives who love Rubio so much like to think of him as someone who “has built up a record of accomplishment during his four years in the Senate, where he serves on the foreign-relations and intelligence committees.” But how, Mr. Rubio, would your support for toppling Assad in Syria have spread freedom? How does the open and covert arming of Islamist Bin Ladenite types in Syria and Libya help America maintain international norms and boundaries? How does provocation with Russia and China ensure a peaceful future? And other than the pull out of troops in Iraq, how has Barack Obama been any different from what you are proposing at least in principle?
You see, the neoconservatives–and now Rubio–love to present their vision of a global order dominated by American military power in grand moral terms and historical treatises which always remind us of WWII. They love to paint their opponents as isolationists on the campaign trail and more generously as “normalists” or “realists” in an academic setting. Yet, the wisdom of the neoconservatives is really chicanery dressed up in high ideals and over-confidence in imperial power. And I say this not as one who wish to see America weak and withdrawn. I say this as one who sees America stretched paper-thin, made weak and withdrawn by our many attempts to behave otherwise.
Rubio may be presenting to the American people a “moral vision” for American leadership abroad, but the moral principles are merely a cover–a form of propaganda–meant to assuage Americans from thinking strategically about the flaws in the neoconservative proclivity to use military force where diplomacy and, yes, doing nothing are optimal approaches. As America becomes more of an imperial guarantor of the global order rather than a commercial libertarian republic, the political ideals of equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness become replaced by sacrifice in the service of American power.
And as we all know power corrupts. No matter how good one’s intentions may be.
Thus, I am skeptical of Rubio’s call for a new American century through militray might. I am skeptical of the neoconservative support for his candidacy and doctrine.
The 21st century can be one of robust American involvement abroad through trade, culture, and a true defense of American liberty, but let us not confuse defending liberty with consolidating state power, else we will lose what makes America exceptional in the first place.