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Rubio: “It’s not a transaction in which we give something tangible and receive something tangible in return. America has more to give than the nations we’re helping, and that’s one of the reasons we have a responsibility to lead.” 

Washington, D.C. – In a Senate floor speech today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) made the case that Americans benefit greatly from our country’s role as a global leader in the 21st century. Answering to political figures in both parties who claim American engagement has become too one-sided, Rubio argued that global leadership is essential to our nation’s interests.

“International affairs have a bigger impact on the financial wellbeing of our people today than ever before,” said Rubio. “In our global economy, someone on the other side of the planet can now buy a product from an American with the tap of a finger. But when nations or entire regions are torn apart by war and oppression, they become closed off, and economic growth in our own country is restricted as a result.

“If America were to fail to protect the openness of international waters, global shipping would be threatened and prices would rise for consumers on virtually everything,” Rubio continued. “Similarly, if space and cyberspace became threatened or restricted, then global communications and commerce will suffer as well. Americans also see real benefits in terms of our safety at home and around the world.

“Without American leadership, regional order tends to break down, and then instability spreads,” Rubio added. “This opens up vacuums that are filled by radicals. And those radicals always – irrespective of what we are doing or what we are not doing – target America, and they do so either to bolster their own prestige, or for ideological reasons, or often both.  As President Obama has found, leaving the Middle East doesn’t mean terrorists stop trying to kill Americans. Our families, our homeland and our men and women in uniform are less safe when America disengages from the world. We also benefit geopolitically when we help other nations. 

“Think what Europe would look like had it not been for America’s moral and strategic leadership during the Cold War.  Europe still faces many challenges today, mainly because of our neglect of the crisis in Syria.  But for centuries prior, Europe was driven by conflict.  European peace was thought to be impossible, yet that is what NATO and other institutions have helped achieve with American support,” Rubio concluded.

A transcript of Rubio’s full remarks is available below. A video is available here, and a broadcast quality video is available for download here.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
Senate Floor Speech
May 19, 2016
https://youtu.be/dz-_KKAXmZE

Senator Marco Rubio: “There is an ongoing debate in our politics today about the value of American leadership around the world in the 21st century. There’s a view that seems to be gaining traction and favor that our international engagement is one sided – that our allies are “free riders” – that we contribute too much and get too little in return, and so why should we bother to be involved in the world?

“By the way, these voices exist in both parties, and I’d like to answer them here today.

“I want to start by looking back to the last century, when the world emerged from the death and destruction of the Second World War.  The United States could have, after that war, decided to wall ourselves off – that after the loss of so many of our best and brightest, we had already paid enough for peace.

“Instead, our country became the driving force behind international order.  We forged a series of strong alliances, led with moral clarity, and positioned our military strength strategically around the world. In doing so, the American people benefitted immensely as we helped stave off the threat of another global conflict, oversaw decades of economic growth and the spread of democracy and freedom around the world.

“Then, like now, our people benefited tremendously from our status in the world, even though our engagement was disproportional to that of other nations. In fact, we benefited precisely because our engagement was disproportional to that of other nations.

“International engagement has never been a business deal. International engagement is not a transaction in which we give something tangible and receive something tangible in return. America has more to give than the nations we’re helping, and that’s one of the reasons we have a responsibility to lead. As is written in the Bible: ‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be required.’ But our leadership ends up paying dividends for the entire world, but especially for the American people.

“First of all, American workers and families benefit economically.

“International affairs have a bigger impact on the financial wellbeing of our people today than ever before. In our global economy, someone on the other side of the planet can now buy a product from an American with the tap of a finger. But when nations or entire regions are torn apart by war and oppression, they become closed off, and economic growth in our own country is restricted as a result.

“If America were to fail to protect the openness of international waters, global shipping would be threatened and prices would rise for consumers on virtually everything. Similarly, if space and cyberspace became threatened or restricted, then global communications and commerce will suffer as well.

“Americans also see real benefits in terms of our safety at home and around the world.

“Without American leadership, regional order tends to break down, and then instability spreads. This opens up vacuums that are filled by radicals. And those radicals always – irrespective of what we are doing or what we are not doing – target America, and they do so either to bolster their own prestige, or for ideological reasons, or often both.  As President Obama has found, leaving the Middle East doesn’t mean terrorists stop trying to kill Americans. Our families, our homeland and our men and women in uniform are less safe when America disengages from the world.

“We also benefit geopolitically when we help other nations. 

“Think what Europe would look like had it not been for America’s moral and strategic leadership during the Cold War.  Europe still faces many challenges today, mainly because of our neglect of the crisis in Syria.  But for centuries prior, Europe was driven by conflict.  European peace was thought to be impossible, yet that is what NATO and other institutions have helped achieve with American support.

“What would Asia look right now like had the United States not helped it to rebuild after World War II?

“Look at the way American leadership allowed South Korea to go from a poor country, a dictatorship, to a vibrant democracy and one of the largest economies in the world. South Korea is now a net donor to foreign aid and a crucial ally for us in a region that includes an aggressive China and a belligerent North Korea.

“Japan has gone from a country devastated by war and not trusted by its neighbors to one of the most peaceful societies in the world. It has also become a net contributor to global security through its military and humanitarian assistance programs.

“And then there’s the Middle East. Whether or not we should continue to play a role there is a question that weighs particularly heavy on the minds of many Americans. I understand the doubts and the frustrations. We’ve been involved in the region for decades, nothing seems to be getting better, and despite our attempts to help, we watch on television as some celebrate our tragedies and burn our flag in the Arab street.

“It’s true that we cannot solve all of the region’s problems, but we have an interest in what happens there nonetheless. That interest is served by our involvement, not by our withdrawal. ISIS arose in the first place because of the political instability that exists in both Syria and Iraq, and that instability was created in part because President Obama withdrew or withheld American leadership at crucial moments.

“Failing to lead costs us more in the long term than it saved in the short term. And we will continue to pay a steep price each time we fail to lead in the future.

“There are complex considerations to make regarding our engagement in every region, but I believe a world without sustained American engagement is not a world any of us want to live in.  And this idea, shared by prominent voices in both parties – that America is such a weak nation that we can’t afford to be engaged in the world – is one of the biggest lies ever told to the American people. Just because our government leaders are weak does not mean America is weak.

“No American wants to live in a world where Vladimir Putin sets the agenda or ISIS holds us hostage to their demands.  Yet this is the world we are heading toward as political leaders continue to embrace America’s decline.

“Defense spending is currently roughly 3.3 percent of our budget, compared to 14% at the height of the Korean War. Our Army is on track to be at pre-World War II levels, our Navy is at pre-WWI levels, and our Air Force has the smallest and the oldest combat force in its history. These are the results of specific policy choices made by politicians right here. It’s no accident that the result has been more conflict around the world and less American influence.

“I saw firsthand on a recent trip to Iraq how our men and women in uniform around the world are doing their best to keep us safe with limited resources.  We’ve put them in an untenable position. They are asked to maintain our global commitments, fight ISIS and other terrorist groups, and deter countries such as Russia, Iran, North Korea, and China. They and our country deserve better. 

“‘Spend less abroad so we can spend more at home’ has become a common refrain among leaders in both parties. It’s used to excuse cuts to the military and our presence around the world. The truth is the defense budget is not the primary driver of our debt – that’s our entitlement programs – and every time we try to cut a dollar from our military it seems to cost us several more just to make up for it.

“In addition to investing in our strength, we must apply that strength in a way that respects our values and supports our economic interests.

“Americans deserve a foreign policy we can be proud of. But for the last eight years, we’ve had a Commander in Chief who praises and appeases dictators to promote the illusion of peace.  Some in my own party have now adopted a similar approach. They may claim to represent different ideas, but both emanate from the same notion that Americans are too tired, America is too week and that we are too much like the rest of the world to stand up to tyrants, so we should just cut deals with them instead.

“This is not only morally wrong; it is contrary to our interests. Whenever our foreign policy comes unhinged from its moral purpose, it weakens global stability and it forms cracks in our national resolve. But whenever freedom and human rights spread, partners for our nation are born.

“We must restore America’s willingness to state boldly what we stand for and why. Just as Reagan never flinched in his criticisms of the Soviet Union, we must not shy away from demanding that China allow true freedom for its 1.3 billion people.  Or boldly stating that Vladimir Putin is a corrupt thug.  Nor should we hesitate in calling the source of atrocities in the Middle East by its real name – radical Islam. We should always stand with Israel. And we should not abandon the cause of freedom in our own hemisphere and allow cruel and immoral dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela to be absolved of their crimes.

“The world needs America’s moral and military strength just as much as our people and our economy do. No other nation can deter global conflict by its presence alone. No other nation can offer the security and benevolence that America can. No other nation can be trusted to defend peace and advance liberty.

“America cannot avoid its role as a global leader. But we also know America cannot be tasked with protecting the world on its own. It will take an international order of free nations with free economies to do so. We must work with likeminded allies whenever possible and encourage them to do their part, but no other nation has the ability to organize or lead such a coalition if we fail to do so.

“That is why I will continue to make the case for an engaged America, no matter who becomes our next president, no matter how the political winds may blow. Our safety and prosperity depend on it. The ideal of America depends on it.

“That was true last century, and it is even more so today.”