WASHINGTON -- Going almost country by country, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio this morning criticized nearly every major foreign policy decision made by President Barack Obama since 2009 and -- in a nod to his own White House ambitions -- called for more robust U.S. involvement overseas.
Specifically, the Florida Republican attacked the administration for not doing more to help overthrow oppressive regimes in Syria and Libya while abandoning Iraq -- and soon Afghanistan -- by bringing home U.S. troops too quickly. At the same time, Rubio warned of the "overly eager" nature of ongoing talks between the White House and Iran over that country's nuclear ambitions.
"From his first days in office, President Obama has seemed unsure of the role that American power and principles should play around the world. He has failed to understand that in foreign policy, the timing and decisiveness of our actions matter almost as much as how we engage," said Rubio, speaking before the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
He called on the administration to engage more forcefully on the global stage while also decrying upcoming cuts to the Defense Department. Taken together, the proposals suggest that a future Rubio administration -- if the rising Republican star decides to run and he ultimately wins the 2016 contest -- would more willing to use traditional military engagement to settle international disputes.
"Some on both the left and the right try to portray our legacy as one of an aggressive tyrant constantly meddling in the world’s crises," Rubio said. "But ask around the world and you’ll find that our past use of military might has a different legacy. Our legacy is a crumbled wall in Berlin. It’s the millions of Afghan children – including many girls – now able to attend school for the first time. It’s vibrant democracies and steadfast allies such as Germany, Japan and South Korea."
Staking out an early expertise in international policy could be beneficial to Rubio's presidential hopes. The potential field of 2016 Republican nominees includes several candidates with strong domestic portfolios -- but less on the global scene -- and having that arrow in his quiver could set Rubio apart. Especially since Rubio's call for vigorous U.S. involvement overseas draws a clear line between him and other potential candidates, such U.S. Rep. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who have taken a more isolationist approach.