Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) sought a middle ground between the isolationist leanings of some of his colleagues and the muscular interventionism of the Bush administration during a speech at the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday.
Arguing that many Americans "only recognize two points of view—'doves', who seek to isolate us from the world … and ‘hawks,' who believe we should use our mighty military strength to intervene in response to practically every crisis," Rubio said these labels have become "obsolete."
He noted that U.S. military strength is both necessary and a force for good in the world, but should be used sparingly.
"Our uses of [diplomacy, foreign assistance, and economic power] methods should vastly outnumber our uses of force," said Rubio. "But force used with clear, achievable objectives must always remain a part of our foreign policy toolbox. Because, while we always prefer peace over conflict, sometimes our enemies choose differently."
Rubio proposed conditioning foreign aid on democratic reforms, eliminating wasteful spending at the Pentagon while strengthening the military, and opening up America's visa waiver program to South Korea, Poland and allies in Central Europe.
He also said U.S. foreign policy should be premised on both national security interests and advancing democratic values around the world.
"[W]e must construct a strategic foreign policy that keeps Americans safe, promotes our national interests, and remains true to our guiding principles of liberty and human rights," said Rubio.
Rubio argued that many of the Obama administration's blunders in the Middle East stemmed from its lack of a foreign policy vision.
"The debacle in Syria also illustrates the cost of President Obama’s lack of a strategic foreign policy," he said. "More than two years ago, I urged the President to exercise American influence at a time when we clearly had the ability to shape the outcome of the Syrian war—not through military action, but by working with an opposition that was not yet dominated by an influx of Al Qaeda-linked extremists."
Rubio emphasized that he voted against President Barack Obama’s proposed military action in Syria, not for isolationist reasons, but "because [Obama] had no strategy beyond symbolic missile strikes."
The senator also sought a middle ground on the NSA domestic surveillance controversy.
He noted the "valid concerns of Americans who are alarmed by reports regarding their civil liberties" but added, "We must distinguish these reasonable concerns from conspiracy theories sparked by [admitted NSA leaker] Edward Snowden. This man is a traitor who has sought assistance and refuge from some of the world’s most notorious violators of liberty and human rights."
Rubio also warned that if the U.S. cedes its role as a global superpower it will create a vacuum that could be filled by rogue states.
"Every American can agree that the light of peace and liberty would benefit our world. But who will spread it if not America?" said Rubio. "There is no other nation that can. And that is why, despite the challenges we face here at home, America must continue to hold this torch. America must continue to lead the way."