The Rubio Doctrine: Confusing and Conflicting, the American Way


The junior senator from Florida keeps rising in the polls, but despite his shot in the spotlight, the boy wonder still has yet to strike a reverberating chord when it comes to foreign policy. Posturing from the Rubio camp has inflated a makeshift foreign policy puppet that masquerades as Reagan-ology, back to reclaim American exceptionalism. In reality, the “Rubio Doctrine” is little more than a pedagogical turn on the heels of American exasperation in the face of seemingly endless pomp and circumstance. An unhealthy ignorance, inherent in Rubio’s and other Republicans’ campaigns, festers under the assumption that American greatness can be dredged up with old slogans and party playbooks. While seeking to emulate the prowess of Reagan, Rubio has embraced the lucrative narrative of exponential military growth as the end-all, be-all for international qualms and conflicts.

Make no mistake, Rubio isn’t the only Republican contender offering to bring firecrackers to a Maslenitsa, but he’s one of the most clueless candidates making the proposition. Despite his youthful gait, Rubio clings to an arthritic pretension when it comes to foreign policy: America makes the wheels of foreign policy turn, and without it, the world itself would soon fall into the sea. Even those who fall in love with Rubio’s charm soon find themselves confronted by the Bush Doctrine reincarnated. Despite his reassurance that Iraq wouldn’t happen under his watch, Rubio also promises that Iraq would have happened under his watch. …or something.

Nowhere is the current danger of US adventurism and militarism so poignant as in Syria. With the Russian Federation swooping in to help prop-up Assad, the Recpublicans are salivating at the thought of an all-out-war with America’s old enemy, and none jump with more glee than Marco Rubio.

Earlier this year, Professor Stephen Cohen reminded the West of the importance of a US-Russian parity principle: a rejection of escalation, such that provided by the détentes of decades past, when the US successfully avoided larger-scale conflict with the Soviet Union.

 “Unless the idea of détente is fully rehabilitated, and with it the essential parity principle, the new Cold War will include a growing risk of actual war with nuclear Russia. We must therefore strive for a new détente. Time may not be on our side, but reason is.

To those who say this is “appeasement” or “Putin apologetics,” we reply, no, it is American patriotism, not only because of the risk of a larger war but because real US national security on many vital issues and in many critical regions—from nuclear proliferation and international terrorism to the Middle East and Afghanistan—requires a partner in the Kremlin.”

Thus far, the only Republican Candidate who even remotely embodies the détente spirit is Donald Trump, who continually refers to Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation like old chums at a livestock auction: they drive a hard bargain, but are not beyond reason. Such a notion undermines Rubio’s first foundational “principle” of foreign policy, “American Strength,” as characterized specifically by 1) expenditures, 2) technology development (expenditures), and 3) American espionage/The Patriot Act. Nowhere does Rubio depict “American Strength,” either tacitly or explicitly, as a stalwart attempt to unify practical international policy with other superpowers. Instead, he chooses to remember the Cold War as a victory won with American arsenals that coerced cooperation from the Russians.

 Marco Rubio’s recent speeches and the latest GOP debate make him sound like more than a hawk: he’s a freaking war eagle. In an interview after the Russian Air Force began exercising power over Syrian airspace, Rubio remarked that, “I believe the Russians would not test [a safe zone.] I don’t think it’s in the Russians’ interest to engage in an armed conflict with the United States.” Beat the battle drums and grab your tomahawks: Marco Rubio’s “American Strength” is nothing more than a farce for intimidation and provocation. Even after the Soviet Union shot down KAL flight 007, the ensuing tension and response from the White House was hardly akin to a presidential contender openly offering to invite Russia into an “armed conflict.”
Unfortunately, the rest of Rubio’s hardly comprehensive foreign policy platform is just as confrontational and hostile as his attitude towards Russia. Here are a few of the other pillars under “American Values” of the Rubio Doctrine, as laid out on his campaign website:
  • Demand that China allow true freedom for its 1.3 billion people.
  • Call the source of atrocities in the Middle East by its real name: radical Islam.

The fact that Rubio would even consider framing a demand for Chinese “freedom” as a foreign policy pillar, let alone an “American Value,” should make Republicans roll over and moan with birth pangs. Although China can hardly be labeled a giant of civil liberty, lumping the greatest trade partner of the US in with radical Islamists as those that must be dealt with hardly seems like a way that this Tea Party darling will endear himself to the developed world. While China certainly presents complex issues regarding trade and financial markets, sitting down to talk trade over tea with Xi is a drastically different proposition that inserting ourselves as a global watchdog for reproductive, communicative, and technological freedoms in other countries. Espousing the value of liberty for citizens hardly constitutes making threats against their governments when the same liberties are withheld or watered down.

Stephen Cohen rightly understands and promotes the notion that true patriotism and American strength requires strong partnerships. Rubio’s foreign policy approach is something entirely different. He has no respect or value for partnerships. Instead, he finds value in handicaps and intimidation — keeping other nations and powers down while promoting our interest unilaterally. He forgets that this same unilateral behavior is what created conflicts during the Cold War: call and response; action and reaction.

Reagan’s own military buildup dissuaded Gorbachev from attempting to keep up with the U.S., but that proliferation of American armaments was done in conjunction with a dialogue about how to reduce the very same militaristic tensions. The gradual meeting of wants between Gorbachev and Reagan allowed the aspirations of reform to blossom, even amidst ongoing proxy wars. Consequently, Rubio’s self-proclaimed following in Reagan’s footsteps, while attractive to Republican voters, only embraces one side of the Reagan doctrine: armament and proliferation. The flat-out refusal to engage China, Russia, or Syria in a dialogue entrenches the notion that Rubio is a true hawk, out for blood and unwilling to see American military strength as more than a tool to commit deposition and regional cleansing.

It’s no surprise that Rubio takes a shotgun approach to foreign policy. After all, this is the same candidate who likened his plan for dealing with terrorists to Liam Neeson’s threats in Taken: ‘We will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you.” If the “world is a better place when America leads,” maybe Rubio should find a way to articulate real leadership, instead of chopping down foreign leaders and powers at the knees under the guise of restoring American strength. There is real strength in military might, but even a weak opponent will throw itself into a losing conflict when confronted by two fists. Rubio must learn to extend both a fist and an open hand, or risk damage to his entire person.

One thought on “The Rubio Doctrine: Confusing and Conflicting, the American Way

  1. Pingback: Out of the Frying Pan: Republican Play For National Insecurity | The Feral Yawp

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