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Rubio Raises Questions on America’s Role in the World at Kerry Nomination Hearing
Senator Marco Rubio
Excerpt from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing
January 24, 2013
Senator Marco Rubio: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Senator Kerry, congratulations on your nomination. You have been nominated in an interesting time in American foreign policy. We’re having this debate in this country and we’re well aware of it because we have had it on this Committee. On the one hand, we cannot solve every problem in the world. We never have been able to do that, but we certainly can’t do it now. We cannot afford it. No single nation can. On the other hand, America is indispensable to foreign policy. The world is a dangerous place when America is not leading. And in fact, the fundamental issues that confront the world today require coalitions of nations to confront it. And the only nation on earth that can form these coalitions and lead them is us. It’s not the United Nations. It’s not the organization of the American States or any of these other multilateral organizations. It’s the United States of America that can help form these coalitions to confront global challenges and help to lead them.
“And so, the central issue of foreign policy today is this balance between making sure we’re not trying to do more than we can, and ensuring that we’re not doing less than we should. And where that really comes to play, for example, is the debate on foreign aid. Where on the one hand, I think there has been this perception created in this country that foreign aid is 20 percent of our budget when in fact it’s a very small percentage. On the other hand, our foreign aid has to make sense. You touched upon it a moment ago, about foreign aid going to countries that are corruptly using it, and so we ought to make sure that foreign aid is furthering our national interest.
“What I hope you would help me with, because in your testimony you alluded to President Obama’s vision for the world. And in the two years I’ve been here, I’ve struggled to fully understand what that vision is. If you go through the different countries, Russia’s been mentioned. You know the situation there has deteriorated as Russia, and its leadership, have made the decision that they want to recapture some of the Cold War stature that they had. And the best way to do that is to be confrontational with us.
“We had a hearing yesterday on Libya, what we did not get a chance to talk about is how U.S. policy toward Libya and the Gaddafi conflict created many of the conditions that led to the attack on the consulate. A weak government, the forming of these militias, is all the product of an extended protracted conflict where the U.S., once it made its decision to be involved, and we can debate whether we should have gotten involved or not. But once they made their decision got involved in its early stages, and then turned the rest of it over to our allies, who simply didn’t have the capability to bring that conflict it to a quick conclusion. And as a result, created the weak government and the situation that we face there.
“We’ve repeated that in Syria. Where again, we can debate whether it was in our national interest or not to get involved, as Iran’s best friend, as the grand central station for terrorist all over the world. I think that is in our national interest to help an opposition form and organize itself. We have been so disorganized in our involvement in Syria, that now we are at the point where the opposition in Syria when the win, and they will win, are just as angry at us as they once were at Russia and China and Iran and the other nations that stood with Assad.
“We go to Latin America, where on the on one hand, in 2009 the administration condemned what happened in Honduras, which is debatable whether that was a coup or not. On the other hand, they stole an election in Nicaragua. I had to hold a nomination here just to get a strongly worded statement out of the administration.
“We move over to the Middle East, where Israel quite frankly has been concerned. Whether they admit it publicly or not, that for many, for the early years administration, they were more focused on the Palestinian question as the biggest issue in the Middle East. When in fact, the biggest issue in the Middle East is that Iran wants a nuclear weapon so they can attack Israel, and potentially other nations. We’ve talked about Iran. In 2009, the people of Iran took to the streets, in defense of the principals that we say we stand for, and the President of the United States says ‘We are not going to interfere in their sovereignty’. That totally demoralized the opposition.
“North Korea today announced that they are developing a weapon that can reach the United States of America. And less anybody accuse me of being overly partisan here, I think the Bush administration was wrong to remove North Korea from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, and I hope we will reverse that.
“And finally, China and the territorial conflicts that that are going on in Southeast Asia and throughout the region. China is being increasingly aggressive about their territorial claims, and their neighbors are looking to the United States and U.S. leadership as a counter balance. We talk about, you know I congratulate the President for talking about pivoting to Asia, but if this sequester goes through, then what are we going to pivot with?
“And so, these are the fundamental issues we face. My question to you is, as you sit with the President and as part of his cabinet help him form a vision for the world, and for the U.S.’s role in the world over the next few years, what advice are you going to give him in terms of what the U.S.’s role should be and how that should be reflected in our foreign policy?”