Foreign and Defense Policy

Rubio Offers the Foreign Policy Vision Missing in Last Night’s Debate

In the Washington Post this morning, I write about the pathetic state of the foreign policy discussion in last night’s presidential debate. The candidates spent just nine minutes of the two-hour discussion on national security—and most of that was spent arguing over how quickly America should withdraw from Afghanistan, and whether America brought the 9/11 attacks upon itself.

It is with this backdrop that Senator Marco Rubio takes the stage tonight at the Jesse Helms Center in Wingate, North Carolina, with a major address on “America’s Role in the World.” Rubio’s office released the following excerpts this morning. The only thing wrong with Rubio’s remarks is that they were not delivered on the debate stage last night—by any of the current candidates or by Rubio himself.


Fundamentally, I believe the world is a better place when the United States is strong and prosperous. I do not 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 …

We do not seek to impose our vision of government. We do not insist that every nation must have a presidency, a supreme court and bicameral legislature. Nor do we have any intention of using force to depose every despotic regime on the planet.

But we must do what we can to champion the cause of freedom—not only with the power of our example but also with our money and resources, our ingenuity, our diplomacy, and on rare occasion, when there is no good alternative and when our national interest is clearly at stake, our armed might.


States that do not respect the rights of their citizens seldom respect the rights of their neighbors. They become breeding grounds for all sorts of ills—from the trafficking of humans and drugs to contagious disease and famine, from nuclear proliferation to terrorism—that threaten our own security.

Some suggest that America should heed the famous words of John Quincy Adams and go “not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.” The problem is if America turns inward and ignores the monsters abroad, they are likely to come here.


I applaud President Obama for ordering the gutsy raid that finally brought Osama bin Laden to his just fate. I applaud the president, too, for his stirring words in support of reformers in the Middle East. I only wish he had shown more commitment to the cause of freedom. He has been so slow and hesitant that we have missed some significant opportunities to alter the strategic landscape in America’s favor. And the president’s failure to lead has served to magnify the damage done to U.S. interests …

That is why I am so concerned that President Obama may let this historic moment pass. I am glad that the president is trying to bring our allies along with us. But they would be the first to tell you that nothing important or difficult happens without American leadership. Unfortunately, that leadership has been missing at critical junctures during the last few years.

Most recently, for example, it has been suggested that the advice of our military commanders in Iraq be completely ignored in favor of a dramatic troop drawdown that even Iraqis say is too drastic.

It is a reminder that, in our republic, elections have consequences not just at home, but all over the world. Because while previous generations of leaders—and even some I serve with today—have stood up for unpopular but necessary measures, even at the risk of losing elections, others are simply too willing to do what is politically self-serving. America, and the entire world for that matter, needs resolute leadership in this era of historic, but volatile, transformation, particularly in the Middle East—and particularly in Iraq.


Beyond the Middle East, in our own hemisphere, a combination of narco-trafficking networks, anti-American strongmen, and the increasing penetration of Iranian influence is raising dangers of a special kind. Individuals like Hugo Chavez, who has no business running anything in the first place, much less a country, have worked strenuously to build a bloc of countries to work against U.S. interests—and at great risk to great friends like Colombia.

Unfortunately, the president has missed easy opportunities to stand with our allies; for instance, through free trade agreements. We cannot continue to ignore or be complacent about Latin America, nor can we relegate our friends in the region to be anything less than high priority partnerships for us to continue nurturing.

After all, the security of our democratic society depends on the success of liberty in our own hemisphere. The fight against drug and human trafficking, and the infiltration of Islamist terrorists requires the success of economic and political freedoms—and the rule of law—in Latin America. We must be more vigilant—and more decisive—in defending our interests in our own hemisphere.


Yet our ability to lead is threatened. Not by any external foe, but rather by our own fiscal woes.

This year, the national debt surpassed the size of our economy and it will continue to grow unless we can get it under control.

I am a strong advocate of cutting unnecessary and wasteful spending, but the defense budget is not the biggest driver of our debt—it accounts for roughly twenty percent of annual federal spending. By contrast, entitlement programs swallow more than half the budget and are the main drivers of our debt …

Even worse is what’s looming: In the worst case scenario, if the so-called Debt Super Committee doesn’t reach any deal at all, the Pentagon could be slashed by more than $1 trillion over ten years.

Our new secretary of defense—himself a well-known budget hawk—has warned that cutbacks of this scale would have “devastating effects on our national defense.” And I can but echo Leon Panetta’s words.

The American armed forces have been the greatest force for good in the world during the past century. They stopped Nazism and Communism and other evils such as Serbian ethnic-cleansing and Saddam Hussein’s genocide against the Kurds. They have birthed democracies from Germany to Iraq. They have delivered relief supplies, and performed countless other tasks in service to our nation.

All they have ever asked in return is that we provide them the tools to get the job done—and that we look after them and their families. They have never failed us in our time of need. We must not fail them now.  We must maintain a strong national defense.

13 thoughts on “Rubio Offers the Foreign Policy Vision Missing in Last Night’s Debate

  1. Marco Rubio has a better handle on the National situation than 90% of those in government especially the President and his cronies, ah I mean cabinet. God Bless You Marco and we will pray for you to continue to STAND FOR AMERICA AND HER CITIZENS.

  2. Let’s get real for a moment here Marco. You acknowledge that there are unsustainable fiscal problems, but that providing the funding to police the world is off the table? That is one of the most absurd ideas I’ve ever heard! Do you honestly think that the average American who is engaged in some part of the entitlement system is willing to take a cut out of what they THINK they’re owed? It’s not going to happen!

    Bottom line, we don’t have the money for all of this war mongering (yes, that’s exactly what it is) and if you think us occupying other nations land enhances our national security, then lets see what tune you sing if one of those planes fly into your building next time.

    • Strange, Chuck, I read the same article as you and didn’t come away thinking that Rubio was “war mongering” as you said. Protecting vital American interests is not war mongering, neither is wanting a strong defense: “In order to have peace, prepare for war.” is just sound advice. And I didn’t read about him advocating policing the world. Most average Americans are not necessarily involved in the entitlement system either, but those that are probably would fight to keep what 50 years of politicians have told them they are owed. That is about the only thing I agree with you on in your comment since the rest is malarkey.

      • Jimmy,

        If you are for keeping “strategic” military bases around the world in places where we are not wanted, you’re war mongering and or trying to police the world. Our occupation of these foreign nations is what is inciting these people to do harm to our men and women in uniform. Here is a video with Michael Sheurer, former head of the Bin Laden investigation team explaining why the Muslim world is at odds with the west.

        Marco is proposing zero cuts in militarism as it only accounts for 20%. There is however a STARK contrast between militarism and national defense.

        As for the most American’s aren’t involved in the entitlement system, a review of his letter suggests otherwise.

        “By contrast, entitlement programs swallow more than half the budget and are the main drivers of our debt …”

  3. I am also proud of my Florida MARCO RUBIO. I can’t wait till he run’s for the President of the US. I will forsure vote for him myself. i voted for him. I agree w/ everything in this article. our most imporant thing nexted to the NATIONAL DEBT. Is everything he said. but i will tell you i personally have not felt save in my own backyard since BUSH left office. And that is the trueth. GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA & MARCO RUBIO. I pray he will run in next election. kk

  4. The earliest President in my memory is Eisenhower. I started to pay attention to national politics with LBJ, and over the years the President that has been the most stirring and effective in enunciating the American spirit and goals has been Ronald Reagan. Since Reagan has passed from the scene I have felt we would not have another of his caliber in my lifetime, however, I think we have such a man in the young Marco Rubio. I am proud to read his words or listen to him speak on different forums and hope that he will only grow as an American leader, and if he does, I will be firmly in the front ranks supporting him if he decides to run for POTUS in the years to come.

  5. My Mom always used to say to me, “Take care of yourself so that you are able to take care of others.” I agree with the President and those who say we need to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan and bring the troops home. This has taken a tremendous toll on our country – not only for the loss of life, injuries to our troops, horrendous struggles for the families of our soldiers, but has burdened us with TREMENDOUS DEBT. We erred in getting into Iraq through scare tactics of Bush and Cheaney. WE NEED TO NATIONBUILD HERE – TAKE CARE FOR AMERICANS FOR A CHANGE – Support President Obama’s Jobs for America Plan to assist our economy – the main concern is JOBS – JOBS HERE. The money we have spent and continue to spend overseas on these wars should instead be used to reduce our debt or used to help Americans. I applaud President Obama for his handling of Libya – where not one American soldier was hurt or killed, no troops on the ground, and brief air support. Let the other countries do their fair share. WE NEED TO TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES, AS AMERICANS, AND GET OUT OF THESE WARS, SO THAT WE CAN GROW ECONOMICALLY. Take care of ourselves in order to take care of others – and others could be all those Americans who have lost homes and their belongings through floods, fires tornadoes, and earthquakes – the natural disasters that hit our countrty. You don’t see other countries helping us. Help Americans first and foremost.

  6. I do admire and appreciate Marco Rubio, and generally support his policies, both ‘foreign’ and ‘domestic’. I also respect the fact that he endeavors to attribute sound decision-making to the current president, in several instances. I suppose it’s reasonable to presume that ANYONE is capable of making both right and wrong decisions, if only on the 50/50 basis of chance. I would hope that Sen. Rubio, however, is not so ingenuous as to also presume that the ‘right’ decisions that are made by the current chief executive are prompted by anything other than ideology and/or political expedience. That would be an even greater mistake, in my opinion, than the ‘lost opportunities’ to which Sen. Rubio so diplomatically refers.

    Our foreign policy problems are inextricably intertwined with our financial woes, as Sen Rubio points out. But we must also address the perceptible deterioration of our social fabric, as evidenced by the outbreak of an ever-increasing number of violent incidents; events that are both pre-meditated, and random, in nature. Fortunately, there’s still much that is right with this country. We can build upon that foundation by re-setting our ‘moral compass’, and then continue to elect leaders who reflect both our nation’s founding principles, as well as our own best selves. God willing, that’s exactly what we will do.

  7. A very nice bit of rhetoric. Is Mr Rubio not a Tea Party advocate of balancing the budget thru cutting spending. Unfortunately, everything he advocates costs heaps of money. Where, pray tell, does that money come from?
    It’s all well and good to preach from the distance. However, I reckon if he were actually prez, he’d be singin a different tune.

  8. Does he realize that the US spends 6 times more than China on military- (China is 2nd in military spending next to us). Maybe we could get by spending just 2 or 3 times as much as our nearest competitor. Our military spending is unnecessary and unsustainable. Our entitlement spending is also unnecessary and wasteful. We should police the entitlements and we could reasonably cut entitlement spending in half- easily. I know many people collecting SS disability who are more able than me to go out and earn their own keep. I know people who sell food they buy with food stamps to buy crack. Our entitlement system is used and abused. Let’s bring the troops home- tomorrow, cut our military spending in half (to 3 times what our nearest competitor spends), and kick all the phonys off the gravy train and we could have a budget surplus- it’s easy.

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