The Corner

Marco Rubio Delivers a Major National-Defense Speech

Today Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) delivered a wide-ranging speech on U.S. foreign and defense policy, billed “American Strength: Building 21st Century Defense Capabilities.” Repairing often to U.S. history, Senator Rubio surveys the global threat environment and argues for a robust buildup of America’s military and intelligence capabilities. The speech further cements Rubio as the only major contender in the 2016 presidential field with anything like a strategic, coherent vision of foreign policy. 

Rubio begins by taking aim at the failure of foreign-policy leadership among both Democrats and Republicans. 

Never before have our people and our economy been so connected to the world. What happens across the planet can have a greater impact on your family than what happens down the street.

But as it was in George Washington’s time, the proper approach to global threats remains a sharply debated topic. In recent years, many Americans have come to oppose significant military engagements overseas, which is understandable. Too many have lost a child or a parent or a friend in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they question whether the outcome has been worth it.

But as threats have risen in recent months, our people appear more willing to engage abroad. What is unfortunate is that too many leaders in both parties, including our president and some who aspire to be president, have shown they would rather wait for poll numbers to change than demonstrate the leadership necessary to shape them.

Instead of outlining the costs of inaction to our people months ago when they should have, they were content to take the political path of least resistance. They advocated leaving our allies to fend for themselves. They proposed massive reductions to defense spending. And they tried to convince Americans the world would be fine without our leadership, or worse, that America would be fine regardless of the chaos the world devolved into.

“The president’s foreign policy was once a failure,” Rubio continues. ”Now it is simply non-existent. From Libya to Syria to Egypt to Ukraine, this administration simply shrugs as threats fester. When the administration does act, it fails to communicate any consistent rationale for military use.” Rubio goes on to lay out a strategic and political rationale for American strength abroad, building upon his growing expertise as second most senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the GOP side. Surprisingly, however, the speech mainly lays out a comprehensive framework for national-defense priorities, calling for robust and specific enhancements to our air, naval, and land forces. That is the purview of the Armed Services Committee (of which he is not a member), and a significant expansion of his portfolio of leading issues.

The speech is well worth watching in full, including the Q&A at the end. 

Mario Loyola is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the director of the Environmental Finance and Risk Management Program of Florida International University, and a visiting fellow at the National Security Institute of George Mason University. The opinions expressed in this column are his alone.


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