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Marco Rubio, American Internationalism, and Islam

Jul 8, 2016 | News

Senator Marco Rubio is the “most articulate spokesperson today for a kind of conservative internationalism,” stated Michael Doran, a scholar at Washington, DC’s Hudson Institute, during a May 10 discussion there on the Middle East. Rubio’s appearance before a conference hall packed with over 120 listeners provided an important opportunity to examine the Muslim world’s pitfalls for this internationalism marked by success elsewhere.

Rubio substantiated his fundamental thesis that “if we are not engaged in the world, the price we pay will be much higher in the long run than the price we pay to be engaged.” He emphasized America’s decisive role in promoting peace and prosperity after World War II amidst Communist Cold War dangers, noting the rags-to-riches success of South Korea, now a net foreign aid donor. Reflecting previous statements, he speculated whether “there has ever been a period in human history where international affairs has a bigger impact on our economy than it does today.” He noted that alliance “partnerships have helped us as well confront evil around the world” such as the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the Islamic State.

Yet many Americans today see “this whole international engagement on the part of the United States is a one-way street” benefiting only foreigners, Rubio stated, sentiments strengthened by an uncertain economy. “You see many periods in our history where Americans are arguing ok, enough is enough, let’s focus on ourselves,” he observed. Focused on domestic tranquility, Americans want to “run their business, raise their family, go to work, enjoy their weekends,” a description that undercuts his assessment that the “American people are instinctively internationalist.”

Accordingly, during the 2011 outbreak of the “Arab Spring” revolts, Rubio praised that the “rise of this new attitude among young people and others seeking a new life and a new way in the Middle East is a positive thing.” Immediately following the downfall of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, he wrote on February 11, 2011, of an “opportunity for the Egyptian people to chart a new, more hopeful and democratic future.” Later that year on October 13 he urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to pursue policy in Bahrain that “moves the country on the path to a fully constitutional monarchy.”


Last but not least, Rubio has a longstanding wish to find “moderate” elements in Syria’s civil war that, with American support, could force that country’s brutal dictator, Bashar al-Assad, from power. “I believe that there are elements that we can work with in Syria,” Rubio stated at the Hudson Institute, even though the New York Times reported in April 2013 that the Syrian rebellion contained no significant secular forces. This belied his cautious optimism expressed in March 2013 that, in Syria, “Islamist forces remain in the minority. Continued inaction, however, will only empower these anti-American elements. 

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