While most of the presidential candidates have curtailed their discussion of foreign policy, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is fast becoming a leader on national security. He’s pushed the administration on everything from free trade to Cuba to Israel to defense spending. His vision, as he explained earlier in the year in a major foreign policy address, is outward-looking and rooted in a belief in American values:
I am guided by their understanding that America’s strength lies in its ideals, and that if we are to make this century another American century, we must be prepared to fight for those ideals.
Now, fundamentally, I believe that the world is a better place when the United States of America is strong and prosperous. Now, I don’t believe that America has the power or means to solve every issue in the world. But I do believe there are some critically important issues where America does have a meaningful role to play in resolving crises that are tied to our national interests.
If we refuse to play our rightful role and shrink from the world, America and the entire world will pay a terrible price. And it is our responsibility to clearly outline to the American people what our proper role in the world is and what American interests are at stake when we engage abroad.
Yesterday, he showed his foreign policy prowess again. As the Associated Press reported, “Sen. Marco Rubio is telling Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the United States should review and revise $53 million weapons sale to Bahrain to make sure none of the items can be used to disrupt or restrict anti-government protests.” It is not an issue that has gotten a lot of press. Other than for a few policy wonks, Bahrain has not been a central concern in the media or in the Senate. But Rubio understands its importance. In his letter he wrote:
I appreciate Bahrain’s concern about Iranian ambitions in the region and the potential threat to the country’s stability, but I believe the government’s response to the disturbances actually threatens the country’s long-term stability, jeopardizes United States’ standing in Bahrain and the Middle East, and plays into the hands of Iran. . . . It is in that context that I urge the administration to review the propose arms sale to Bahrain and to delay any item that package that could be used to disrupt, monitor or otherwise restrict the Bahraini people’s right to peacefully assemble and petition their government.
My word — we have a leader who understands the strategic importance of human rights and who recognizes that what we do in Bahrain is important in Egypt and Syria and elsewhere. The ability to apply American values in specific contexts and to see, in essence, all the pieces on the chessboard is not a skill everyone has.
If we forget for a moment his pitch-perfect voice on immigration and domestic issues, his far-sightedness on foreign policy is reason alone for the eventual GOP presidential nominee to put him on the ticket. Sure, he’ll help with the Hispanic vote in Florida and other swing states. But that’s not the reason to put him there. The real reason is to have someone in high office who understands and acts upon this fundamental concept (as he expressed in the conclusion to his foreign policy speech): “I pray that we will continue to find the wisdom and courage — and resources – to act effectively in the defense of our moral code — the same code that we share with all civilized people. The world needed a strong America in Truman’s time. And if this is to be another American Century, the world needs a strong America now. Because freedom cannot survive without us.” Indeed.