Among the GOP victories in 2010, none was sweeter than that of Marco Rubio.
The charismatic young Cuban-American challenged Gov. Charlie Crist in a Senate primary, ran him out of the party and swept to victory by 19 points in a three-way race.
Among those mentioned as running mates for Mitt Romney, it is Rubio who generates the most excitement. That he is young, Hispanic and conservative, and his place on the ticket might secure Florida, are the cards he brings to the table.
So it was a surprise this week to see Rubio being chaperoned over to the Brookings Institution by Sen. Joe Lieberman to take final vows as the newest neoconservative.
John Quincy Adams’ declaration that America goes not “abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” says Rubio, is an idea that he rejects.
A wiser guide, said the senator, is Bob Kagan, Barack Obama’s favorite neocon, who calls it a myth that America is in decline and who urges a more robust and interventionist foreign policy.
Rubio says that on arrival in the Senate, he was astonished to find conservative colleagues advocating “withdrawal from Afghanistan and staying out of Libya.”
“Today in the U.S. Senate, on foreign policy, if you go far enough to the right, you wind up on the left,” Rubio joked.
But is it leftist for senators, after 10 years of fighting two wars, with 6,500 dead, 40,000 wounded, $2 trillion sunk and a harvest of hatred reaped, to think that perhaps it may not have been wise to plunge into Mesopotamia and the Hindu Kush?
“I always start,” said Rubio, “by reminding people that what happens all over the world is our business. … The security of our cities is connected to the security of small hamlets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.”
This is not a bold new idea. It is an old cliché. We must fight them over there so we do not have to fight them over here.
But it misses a fundamental point. They are over here because we are over there. Osama bin Laden declared war on us because U.S. troops were sitting on the same sacred soil as Mecca and Medina, in his country, Saudi Arabia.
Like most neocons, Rubio is fixated on Iran.
“The goal of preventing a dominant Iran is so important that every regional policy we adopt should be crafted with that overriding goal in mind. … We should also be preparing our allies, and the world, for the reality that … if all else fails, preventing a nuclear Iran may require a military solution.”
But as Iran’s neighbor Turkey is more powerful, and there are 300 million Arabs to 75 million Iranians, and one-third of all Iranians are Azeri, Baluch, Arab and Kurd, why is this our problem?
We may have to deal militarily with Syria, too, says Rubio. With Turkey and the Arab League, we should “create a safe haven” for the opposition to Bashar Assad and consider equipping it with weapons.
But if we have survived Bashar and were allied with his more ruthless father during Desert Storm, why is his departure vital?
Oddly for a man under consideration for vice president, Rubio is positively insulting to Vladimir Putin, who will be leading the world’s largest nation and second-largest nuclear power for the next six years.
“Putin might talk tough,” says Rubio, “but he knows he is weak. Everywhere he looks, he sees threats to his rule, real and imagined. And so he uses state-owned media to preach paranoia and anti-Western sentiments to Russians.”
We should ignore him, says Rubio, and move ahead with “the continued enlargement of NATO.”
Now, as NATO already encompasses Poland and the Baltic states, what additional nations would Rubio bring in under our nuclear umbrella?
It is the George W. Bush idea of bringing Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, which would commit us to war with Russia over who owns the Crimean Peninsula and who is sovereign in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
What vital U.S. interest is wrapped up in these regions that most Americans could not find on a map?
All belonged to the old Soviet Union. Not even the toughest U.S. Cold War presidents dreamed of going to war over them.
“Faced with historic deficits and a dangerous national debt, there has been increasing talk of reducing our foreign aid budget,” says Rubio.
Yes, and some of that talk has come from Mitt.
But Rubio is having none of it.
“Foreign aid is a very cost-effective way not only to export our values, but to advance our security and economic interests.”
Yet, with $5 trillion in deficits in one Obama term and a national debt larger than our gross national product, does it make sense to borrow tens of billions annually from China to send to Third World regimes that vote against us and with China in the United Nations?
Is Marco Rubio tomorrow’s man. Or is he just an echo of yesterday?