- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday the U.S. must stiffen its resolve to bolster its military and be prepared to use it to confront bad actors across the globe, shaping international events and heading off threats to the nation’s well-being at home.

Mr. Rubio, Florida Republican and a likely 2016 presidential contender, blamed both parties for taking a finger-in-the-wind approach to foreign policy and embracing defense cuts that have weakened the nation at a time when global threats have been growing stronger — in a speech that had what could be read as rhetorical jabs at Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

“What is unfortunate is that too many leaders in both parties, including our president and some who aspire to be president, have shown they would rather wait for poll numbers to change than demonstrate the leadership necessary to shape them,” Mr. Rubio said.

Mr. Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Select Committee on Intelligence, has been working to get back into the good graces of conservatives after coming under fire last year for becoming the Republican face of the Senate’s immigration bill, which many conservatives said gave amnesty to illegal immigrants.

The 43-year-old is establishing himself as one of the leading pro-military voices within the Republican ranks, aligning himself with the likes of Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina.

Mr. Rubio has said the world is better off because of the Iraq war, which led to the removal of Saddam Hussein, and he supported the 2011 U.S. intervention in Libya, which contributed of the fall of Moammar Gadhafi.

Mr. Rubio called on the administration to impose sanctions to punish Russian president Vladimir Putin for annexing Crimea, and to provide “lethal military support” to Ukraine and Georgia. And he supports pushing back against the Islamic State group through airstrikes and arming “moderate” rebels in Syria.

The hawkish views have allowed him to put some distance between some of his possible rivals for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

Nowhere is the contrast more pointed than with Mr. Paul, who has been more skeptical of military intervention, and labeled himself as a “realist” on foreign affairs — though his critics call him an isolationist.

On Wednesday, Mr. Rubio touched on the dueling views in his speech, which took place at an event hosted by the John Hay Initiative — a nonprofit group that, according to the Daily Beast, was created by three of the top foreign policy advisers to 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

“There have always been those who argue that America shouldn’t concern herself with the affairs of the world — that what happens an ocean away bears little relevance to our people,” Mr. Rubio said. “Thankfully, there have also always been those who disagree — who argue that foreign policy is domestic policy, that our people’s interests and safety require defense capabilities so robust that they deter aggression and violence before they take hold around the world.”

Mr. Rubio said that, among other things, the growing tensions in Eastern Europe, the rise of Islamist terrorism in the Middle East and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict as proof of the lack of global leadership under President Obama, and of the need to adopt a more muscular brand of foreign policy.

“The world needs American strength just as much as our people and our economy do,” Mr. Rubio said. “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.”

Mr. Rubio called for the Navy to increase its fleet to 323 ships from 289 ships, and said the Air Force should not abandon production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. He called for the reversal of expected ground troop reductions in the Marine Corps and Army, and called for a “sensible intelligence budget.”

And he called for more support from military veterans and for more spending on research and development.

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