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.
ON AMERICA’S ROLE IN THE WORLD
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.
ON THE POST-9/11 WORLD
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.
ON PRESIDENT OBAMA AND THE ARAB SPRING
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.
ON LATIN AMERICA & THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
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.
ON MAINTAINING A STRONG NATIONAL DEFENSE
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.