During what was advertised as a “major foreign policy speech” at the Brookings Institution last Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio said, “I am always cautious about generalizations, but until very recently, the general perception was that American conservatism believed in a robust and muscular foreign policy.”
For Rubio, it’s fine for America to spend money on humanitarian missions abroad, even though these military actions put our children deeper and deeper into debt slavery. “Faced with historic deficits and a dangerous national debt, there has been increasing talk of reducing our foreign aid budget. But we need to remember that these international coalitions we have the opportunity to lead are not just economic or military ones. They can also be humanitarian ones as well.” Exactly what kind of conservatism is this?
Historically, liberals have agreed with President Woodrow Wilson that it is America’s mission “to make the world safe for democracy.” It was the Republican Party led by Sen. Robert Taft in the mid-20th century that formed the conservative opposition to what was considered Wilson’s utopian notion. Yes, President Ronald Reagan built up America’s defenses substantially during the Cold War, but he was still extremely reluctant to use them. As George Mason University Professor Colin Dueck has noted, “The United States did not embark on any large-scale or lasting military interventions under Reagan. He used force in a way that was brief, small-scale, and popular domestically, and when these conditions did not obtain, he extricated the U.S. from the possibility of protracted military entanglements.” Unlike Reagan, Rubio eagerly encourages protracted military engagements.
Rubio’s foreign policy is quintessentially liberal. He believes the U.S. government should not only solve the world’s problems, it has the moral imperative to do so. True conservatives deal with the world as it is, recognizing practical limits, while liberals try to reshape the world as they would like to see it, at any cost. There is no question where Rubio falls. After all, he believes that George W. Bush’s “muscular” and “robust” foreign policy was the same as Reagan’s more restrained one, and by doing so, he does a disservice not only to Reagan, but offers a dishonest assessment of American conservatism.
To get an idea of how a true conservative viewed Bush’s foreign policy, I turn to a 2005 interview of William F. Buckleyby the columnist George Will. During the interview, the two men discussed the Bush Doctrine, which dictates that the U.S. must spread democracy and engage in nation building because our national security depends on it. When Will asked Buckley if the doctrine was conservative, he answered, “It’s not conservative at all, inasmuch as conservatism doesn’t invite unnecessary challenges.”
Rubio was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 as a Tea Party champion, and since then, he has subsequently done very little in the way of trying to cut spending. Instead, he has talked much about the dire need to continue with the same overextended foreign policies of Bush and President Barack Obama, even as our debt continues to rise. In cases where other Senate Tea Party leaders have voted for big cuts and balanced budgets, Rubio is nowhere to be found, but when big government hawks like John McCain, Joe Lieberman, or Lindsey Graham insist the U.S. take action in nations like Libya, Syria, and God-knows-where-else, Rubio’s right beside them.
The reason why Rubio has been reluctant to join the senators who want major spending cuts is because it is extremely hard to arrive at substantive reductions without addressing the Pentagon’s out-of-control spending. When it comes to domestic spending, in order to make government smaller, Americans must re-examine the role of government in their lives and settle for less of it. The same applies to our nation’s foreign policy. Today, many conservatives — and most Americans — now believe our current overseas commitments continue to come at too high a price.
Still, Rubio believes these commitments should be maintained at any cost. The Florida freshman senator has a philosophical ally in President Obama, who believes domestic programs and government commitments must be maintained regardless of the price tag. Conservatives inherently understand that the current status quo cannot be maintained and now apply cost-benefit analyses accordingly.
Protecting the United States and its interests is conservative. Protecting every nation on earth to the detriment of the United States is not. Sen. Marco Rubio can describe his grandiose foreign policy vision using most any term he likes, but “conservative” is not one of them.
Jack Hunter assisted Sen. Jim DeMint with his latest book, Now or Never: Saving America From Economic Collapse. He is also the official campaign blogger for GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, and he co-wrote Rand Paul’s The Tea Party Goes to Washington. You can hear Southern Avenger commentaries on The Morning Buzz on 1250 WTMA.