MIAMI — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is pushing to make what he calls “decisive” diplomacy and foreign aid the backbone of American foreign policy, separating himself from a growing isolationist wing of the Republican Party.
The Florida senator and potential Republican presidential hopeful will argue in remarks Wednesday at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington that diplomacy and foreign aid should “vastly outnumber” the country’s uses of military force, according to excerpts provided to The Associated Press.
“While military might may be our most eye-catching method of involvement abroad, it is far from being our most often utilized,” Rubio says. “In most cases, the decisive use of diplomacy, foreign assistance and economic power are the most effective ways to achieve our interests and stop problems before they spiral into crises.”
Rubio’s speech comes amid a debate in the Republican Party over the role of U.S. foreign policy and military involvement after more than a decade of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Traditional hawks, such as Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, have long favored military intervention in foreign conflicts, including the civil war in Syria. But a growing bloc of noninterventionists, led by Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, is pursuing a more dovish course, animated by libertarian beliefs.
Paul, another possible GOP presidential contender, has gone so far as to suggest cutting foreign aid in half and completely excluding countries, primarily in the Muslim world, that don’t share American values.
Rubio, who sits on the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, argues for a middle ground between the hawks and doves.
“These labels are obsolete. They come from the world of the past,” he says. “The time has now come for a new vision for America’s role abroad — one that reflects the reality of the world we live in today.”
Rubio has used his perch on the Foreign Relations Committee to call for stiffer sanctions for Iran as Western powers and Tehran seek to resolve a decade-long standoff over the country’s nuclear program. The senator, who has criticized an international proposal to ease the economic sanctions, is expected to address the issue Wednesday as those negotiations resume and offer policy prescriptions that touch all corners of the globe.
“As instability spreads and tyrants flourish, our allies want to know whether America can still be counted on to confront these common challenges,” he says.
On Tuesday, Rubio offered a defense of robust foreign aid at a Foreign Relations Committee meeting on the humanitarian effort for the millions of victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. He criticized China for its modest aid, saying the country’s politics influenced its response.
“Compare that to the United States, which consistently has been willing to put aside whatever political differences we may have when a humanitarian crisis strikes,” he said, citing disasters in recent years in Pakistan and Haiti.
Rubio will continue his foreign policy tour with a speech in December at London’s Chatham House, an international affairs think tank.