Restoring American Leadership

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A Conversation with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) - Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee & the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

Moderated by Dan Senor - Council on Foreign Relations & Foreign Policy Initiative

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Senator Rubio outlined a vision of foreign policy based on the tenet of American exceptionalism:  “We can pretend that we’re Luxembourg, but we’re not.”  He observed that American action was indispensible to solving a myriad of pressing global issues that had economic issues at home, adding, “There is no replacement for the United States.”

Rubio identified Iran as the greatest short-term threat facing the United States.  He said that there was no technological impediment for Iran building a nuclear weapon, but noted that there was a great deal of debate as to whether the country was willing to pay any price to build such a device.  The Senator urged that contingency plans, such as a containment policy or missile defense system, should not be America’s first options, as a nuclear-armed Iran would be an existential threat to the state of Israel, and lead to a regional arms race.  The idea of a nuclear-armed Iran was so horrifying, he said, that decision-makers consider all realistic policy options, including the use of force.

On Syria, Rubio remarked that the United States should be clearly on the side of the civilian demonstrators, as a post-Assad Syria would be a blow to Iran’s regional strategic interests, and the United States would again be demonstrably on the side of people aspiring to live in freedom.  While he admitted that Syria’s future leaders may not be liberal democrats, they would be more amicable to America if they knew that the U.S. clearly stood with them while they fought for freedom.

Regarding Afghanistan, Rubio urged the administration not to pursue plans for an accelerated troop drawdown.  If the United States were to withdraw troops without securing stability, America would leave a prime breeding ground for insurgents and terrorists to re-inhabit and plan further attacks against the West.

Rubio argued that foreign aid is not simply a “blank check” dispersed to countries in the hopes that they would support the United States.  Citing the examples of South Korea and Colombia, he countered that foreign aid is an investment to advance American interests and improve the livelihood of others.  He remarked that while foreign aid constituted a minute portion of total federal spending, it serves a practical means of leverage to improve and advance, without resorting to armed conflict, American policy with regimes that are sometimes hostile towards Washington.



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Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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