Marco Rubio: The Neocon Man

The notion that the senator is a moderate standing up to extremism in the GOP has it backwards.

The neoconservatives are busily decrying Donald Trump as a nasty intruder into the ranks of the Republican party. But they themselves are, in many ways, the interlopers, with their ultimate origins dating all the way back to Leon Trotsky. As neoconservative godfather Irving Kristol once observed, “I regard myself as lucky to have been a young Trotskyite and I have not a single bitter memory.” The polemics and crusading fervor of Trotsky’s Fourth International have left their mark on the movement down to the present. In an audacious volte-face, one extreme, you could even say, was switched out for another.

To exercise influence the neocons have always had to have a horse, someone who will purvey their crusading vision to the broader electorate. Once upon a time it was Henry “Scoop” Jackson. Then it was Ronald Reagan, though he proved an imperfect vessel after he recognized that the Soviet Union was rapidly changing. George W. Bush came closest to being a neocon demigod, but after the Fourth International doctrine led to disaster in Iraq, he too began to shift course by 2006. Since then the neocons have been on the search for a new person, a kind of Manchurian candidate, if you will.

When Jeb Bush dropped out of the race, there was only one person left on the merry-go-round, one alternative in neocon eyes who holds a worldview similar to their own and has a decent chance in returning U.S. foreign policy to its former glory. That would be Florida Senator Marco Rubio. On nearly every major foreign policy issue of the day, Rubio makes the likes of Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Elliott Abrams proud. Rubio is the neocon man.

 

Be Tough on Russia

Consider his stance toward Russian President Vladimir Putin. The junior senator from Florida made his feelings abundantly clear during a November 2015 presidential debate on national television when he compared Putin to a Russian-like version of Vito Corleone. “I’ve never met Vladimir Putin,” Rubio said, “but I know enough about him to know he’s a gangster. He’s basically an organized crime figure that runs a country.” And in Rubio’s eyes, the only way to deal with a man like that is through a combination of strength, brute force, isolation and toughness.

Whether the country concerned is Ukraine or Syria, Rubio has consistently advocated for a far more aggressive U.S. policy on Russia, where sticks outweigh carrots and negotiations with Putin are only contemplated if Moscow can capitulate to America’s demands. The Obama administration, says Rubio, has coddled Putin for far too long in the hope that he would transform into a reasonable man, change his stripes and begin acting like a world leader who cares about resolving conflicts, upholding human rights and respecting international borders. As Rubio wrote in a March 2014 op-ed in The Washington Post, “Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea is a direct challenge and long-term threat to the post-World War II international order,” one that can only be contained and driven back through a rigorous economic sanctions regime; lethal support to the Ukrainian military; an expansion of NATO further east; and minimal contact with Russian officials diplomatically. Rubio’s call for cutting off diplomatic exchanges with the Russians would make neoconservatives in Washington smile: after all, why talk to a man who has hate for personal freedom and democracy in his heart?

On Russia’s intervention in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime, Rubio is just as resolute. His proposals are familiar to anyone who has served in the George W. Bush administration: sanction Russian defense firms if they don’t get out of Syria, and make it clear to Putin that Washington doesn’t want Moscow’s help in the counter-ISIL campaign. His final words of advice could have come straight from Dick Cheney’s mouth: “[W]e need to replace a policy of weakness with a policy of strength. We need to restore American leadership and make clear to our adversaries that they will pay a significant price for aggression.”

 

Don’t Trust An Apocalyptic Iran

The Islamic Republic of Iran is the most dangerous, mischievous, duplicitous regime on the planet. In fact, for Rubio, Iran is not a rational actor of the international system. Rather, it’s a country whose leadership embraces martyrdom as a matter of national policy—and that wouldn’t have a second thought about wiping Israel off the face of the earth the moment it acquired a nuclear weapons capability.

Rubio summed this up on the Senate floor on September 10, when he (along with all of his Republican colleagues) actively attempted to block the Iranian nuclear agreement from being implemented:

“Iran is led by a Supreme Leader who is a radical Shia cleric with an apocalyptic vision of the future. He is not a traditional geopolitical actor who makes decisions on the basis of borders or simply history or because of ambitions. He has a religious apocalyptic vision of the future. . . .”

In short: you can’t negotiate with a man like Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He is an apocalyptic, religious extremist that preaches for the destruction of Israel, funds terrorist organizations around the region, and props up a murderous dictator in Syria who has killed at least 270,000 of his own people.

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