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The Rubio Doctrine

Rubio's foreign policy speech is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rubio's foreign policy speech is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When Sen. Marco Rubio speaks Wednesday afternoon in New York, he has the opportunity to offer his foreign policy vision to an audience of foreign affairs experts who might have some biting questions.  

But the Florida Republican, who is one of several senators making a bid for the White House in 2016, first plans to offer up a broad view of the United States’ role on the world stage, with three pillars as his rhetorical guide at the Council on Foreign Relations.  

“The 21st century requires a president who will answer that question with clarity and consistency – one who will set forth a doctrine for the exercise of American influence in the world – and who will adhere to that doctrine with the principled devotion that has marked the bipartisan tradition of presidential leadership from Truman to Kennedy to Reagan,” Rubio plans to say, according to excerpts obtained in advance by CQ Roll Call.  

The Rubio doctrine – and he does not plan to shy away from the term “doctrine” – combines funding for national defense programs, economic power and a third pillar he’s calling “moral clarity regarding America’s core values.”  

“We must recognize that our nation is a global leader not just because it has superior arms, but because it has superior aims,” Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, intends to say. “As president, I will support the spread of economic and political freedom, reinforce our alliances, resist efforts by large powers to subjugate their smaller neighbors, maintain a robust commitment to transparent and effective foreign assistance programs, and advance the rights of the vulnerable, including women and the religious minorities that are so often persecuted, so that the afflicted peoples of the world know the truth: the American people hear their cries, see their suffering, and most of all, desire their freedom.”  

According to the excepts, Rubio’s economic pillar will focus on ensuring global markets are competitive places for Americans to do business, alluding to violations of the rights of vessels operating in international waters, as well as areas where there are specific disagreements about territorial boundaries, like in the South China Sea where evidence shows that China has been literally building islands in what are disputed waters.  

“Russia, China, Iran, or any other nation that attempts to block global commerce will know to expect a response from my administration. Gone will be the days of debating where a ship is flagged or whether it is our place to criticize territorial expansionism,” Rubio will say. “In this century, businesses must have the freedom to operate around the world with confidence.”  

In a nod to the 21st century, Rubio also plans to say he would work to fight disruptions to commerce in “airspace, cyberspace, or outer space,” as well as more traditional invasions.  

Rubio’s formal remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations are scheduled to be followed by a question-and-answer session moderated by journalist Charlie Rose, where Rubio could face some serious challenges from an audience of professionals in the world of foreign affairs. But, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, almost no query about a global hot spot should come as a complete surprise.  

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